- Category: SPECIAL REPORTS
- Tuesday, 18 September 2012
- By Elombah.com
Theresa Ibori, the wife of jailed former Nigerian state governor James Ibori has been named among organised crime bosses owing the British taxpayer a staggering £1 billion, it is revealed today. London based Evening Standard say she still owes just under £5 million of a court order imposed for her role in a £50 million fraud
committed by her husband, despite owning a home in Hampstead and missing a deadline for repayment that ran out in May.
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The new figures — which come as a major blow to the Government’s drive to strip the “Mr Bigs” of their illegal profits — show major drug importers, fraudsters and other serious criminals are among more than 7,000 convicted offenders who have still to pay back their unlawful gains.
Each convict owes an average of about £150,000. The total outstanding debt to taxpayers has risen by nearly £250 million in the past three years and now stands at £1.017 billion — equivalent to at least 40 new secondary schools or several hospitals.
Most of the criminals have ignored deadlines to pay imposed by the courts. Many also received legal aid.
Senior lawyers today described the size of the unpaid debts as “staggering” and MPs called on ministers to look “urgently” at whether new powers were needed.
Among the worst cases highlighted in today’s figures, obtained by the Evening Standard from the Crown Prosecution Service, is that of fraudster Craig Johnson.
Johnson, who was originally jailed for 12 years in 2006 for a VAT scam, owned a £3 million stately home in Staffordshire and lived a multi-millionaire lifestyle. As well as two helicopters, he had an Aston Martin, a Ferrari and two Bentleys.
He has been returned to jail after failing to pay £21.9 million four years after being ordered by Wolverhampton crown court to pay back £26 million. Prosecutors seized assets worth £3 million, but say that he is an “unco-operative defendant” who has “extensive overseas and hidden assets” that are helping him to evade repayment.
Other major debtors include Theresa Ibori, the wife of jailed former Nigerian state governor James Ibori. She still owes just under £5 million of a court order imposed for her role in a £50 million fraud committed by her husband, despite owning a home in Hampstead and missing a deadline for repayment that ran out in May.
Another is London fraudster Christakis Phillipou. He was jailed in 2008 for ripping off an estimated 20,000 holidaymakers in a £6 million scam involving non-existent flights and hotel accommodation. But he still owes nearly £2.4 million and is now believed to have fled abroad, where prosecutors say he has substantial assets, after being released from prison last year. His family still lives in his four-bedroom Bayswater home close to Hyde Park.
Ministers who are setting up a new National Crime Agency to target organised criminals have been told they must beef up their efforts to deprive Mr Bigs of their wealth.
Keith Vaz , the chairman of the Commons home affairs select committee, said: “These are very worrying figures. They show that it is far too easy for major criminals to hold onto the profits of their crime. These serious offenders are escaping proper punishment and, even worse, they are being left with large sums of money which they can use to fund further crimes.”
Confiscation orders are imposed on criminals after their conviction in a bid to stop them profiting from their crimes. There is a deadline for payment and offenders can be returned to prison to serve a “default sentence” if they fail to do so.
The CPS figures show that the vast majority of those given such orders — 6,769 offenders — have already passed their time limit for repayment. They owe nearly £706 million and some still owe large sums a decade or more after their conviction.
Although £299 million has been recovered over the past three years total debts are continuing to rise. New confiscation orders worth more than £543 million have been issued during the same period, creating a net increase in the sum owed to £244 million.
Today’s new figures follow the revelation by the Evening Standard this year that nearly 170 major criminals ordered by courts to pay back £1 million or more had failed to do so. Those statistics were revealed following a two-year Freedom of Information battle to obtain details of the scale of non-payment. The Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, agreed to release the information after re-examining the laws governing disclosure and praised the Standard’s campaign, saying that he had “put into the public domain more information than has ever been disclosed” in response to the “probing questions posed by the Evening Standard”.
Gregor McGill, the head of the CPS’s Organised Crime Division, insisted that prosecutors were doing their best in the face of the obstacles that criminals sought to place in their way.
“We’ve succeeded in depriving criminals of nearly £300 million over the last three years. That’s a substantial sum of real money, much of which has been taken off some of the UK’s most sophisticated and organised offenders, which would otherwise have been used to fund further criminality and lavish lifestyles.”