HATTON GARDEN HEIST: Gang member loses challenge over £6.6m payback order

A member of the Hatton Garden jewellery raid gang has lost a challenge against an order that he must pay back more than £6.6 million.

Brian “the Guv’nor” Reader, now aged 79, of Dartford, Kent, failed to persuade three judges at the Court of Appeal in London on Tuesday that a confiscation order against him was wrongly imposed and should be quashed.

Reader, one of the ringleaders of the notorious multimillion-pound heist, was given a prison term of six years and three months in March 2016 for his role in the break-in.

He had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit burglary.

The Hatton Garden gang carried out the meticulously planned crime over the Easter weekend in 2015.

They ransacked 73 boxes at Hatton Garden Safe Deposit after using a drill to bore a hole into the vault wall.

In January this year, Reader and the three other ringleaders were ordered to pay back various sums following a hearing at London’s Woolwich Crown Court.

A judge said they had jointly benefited from an estimated £13.69 million of cash, gold and gems stolen during the raid.

They were told that if they failed to comply with the confiscation orders they would face another seven years in jail.

Reader, who claims he did not receive anything from the proceeds of the burglary, was ordered to pay £6,644,951, including the sale of his £639,800 home and development land worth £533,000.

Lord Justice Singh, Mr Justice Goss and Judge Deborah Taylor, who heard that Reader is not in custody, rejected his application for leave to appeal against the order, ruling that he had no “arguable” grounds.

Mr Justice Goss, announcing the decision, said the judge who imposed the order had made “no error of law”, and was “justified in making a finding of joint benefit based on the available evidence”.

The four ringleaders were ordered to pay back a total of £27.5 million in January, but the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said afterwards that if one of the four paid an amount of nearly £6.5 million it would come off all their bills.

In August, Hatton Garden burglar Daniel Jones was handed more jail time after failing to pay back more than £6 million. He was sentenced to another six years and 287 days because he failed to pay off the confiscation order imposed in his case.

The appeal judges heard on Tuesday that Reader, the oldest member of the gang, was in “ill health”.

In September 2016 he failed to win a cut in his prison sentence. Court of Appeal judges were urged to show “mercy” and reduce the term following a “dramatic” deterioration in his health.

But the court ruled that his sentence was not “manifestly excessive”.

POCA: No Release Until Payment Made New Report Says

pocaCriminals pursued for their ill-gotten gains should not be released from prison until they have paid up, a new report suggests.

Offenders should either have to pay a confiscation order in full or convince a judge that their debt to society is squared before they are let out, MPs said.

They also called for those subject to the orders to have their passports removed until they have paid.

The proposals follow warnings that only a “paltry” share of the proceeds of crime is ultimately recouped. Figures show criminals owe the taxpayer nearly £2 billion but only a tenth of the sum is seen as “realistically collectable”.

Non-payment of a confiscation order – a key route for seizing offenders’ assets – should be made a separate criminal offence, according to the Commons Home Affairs committee.

Its report said: “To enforce this, we recommend that no criminal be allowed to leaveprison without either paying their confiscation order in full, or engaging with the courts to convince a judge that their debt to society is squared.”

Confiscation orders are issued by courts against convicted offenders and can be applied to any offence resulting in financial gain, with the amount based on “criminal benefit”.

Even after an order has been made, there are very few incentives for criminals to either engage with the courts or pay the money back with many choosing instead to extend their prison sentences and avoid paying, the report warned.

It said: “It appears that some criminals view paying back their proceeds of crime as an option rather than a requirement – essentially a choice between payment and prison.

The committee also backed the creation of a “confiscation court”, saying it received strong evidence this “would combat the current lack of interest in confiscation orders among prosecutors and judges, which has led in turn to a lack of training and specialist skills”.

Committee chairman Labour MP Keith Vaz said: “Non-payment of a confiscation order should be a criminal offence to ensure offenders do not just see out a prison sentence to keep their ill-gotten gains, and these orders should be set by dedicated ‘confiscation courts’.”

Meanwhile, the inquiry concluded that money laundering is “undoubtedly a problem” in the UK.

It is “astonishing” that just 335 out of 1.2 million property transactions last year were deemed to be suspicious, the report said.

Mr Vaz said at least a hundred billion pounds is being laundered through the UK, adding: “Supervision of the property market is totally inadequate, and poor enforcement has laid out a welcome mat for launderers and organised criminals.”

There were calls for an overhaul of the systems used to track seized assets. The committee said it was surprised to learn that confiscated assets taken for use in court and other proceedings cannot be traced from the point of seizure to their being deposited at a storage warehouse.

The report also raised concerns that a database used to log suspicious activity reports is “heavily overloaded and therefore rendered completely ineffective”.

 

A Home Office spokesman said: “We are committed to attacking criminal finances, making it harder to move, hide and use the proceeds of crime, as set out in the Serious and Organised Crime Strategy.

“And there is clear evidence we are making progress in this effort; the Government seized a total of £1.2 billion from criminals between April 2010 and March 2016, with more assets recovered in 2015/16 than ever before.

“But we are working with our operational partners to make even more progress in this area.”

The CPS said it is “determined to ensure that crime does not pay”.