Drug dealers, fraudsters and thieves from the West Midlands living a life of luxury on their criminal finances have been forced to repay £8 million.
Police and prosecutors have clawed back record amounts of criminals’ ill-gotten gains after financial experts sifted through a paper mountain of files to prove they had bought expensive homes, luxury cars and expensive jewellery with the proceeds of their crimes.
And they have been ordered to hand it back - or face longer behind bars.
Since April, West Midlands Police’s Economic Crime Unit has secured paybacks totalling £8.3 million. The cash is then ploughed back into crime-fighting crackdowns.
Criminals are said to fear the law more than jail time, which can be viewed as an occupational hazard, because it hits them hard in the pocket and strips them of their wealth while they are still inside.
Det Chief Insp Simon Wallis, head of the Economic Crime Team, said: “We are having great success in taking the cash out of crime in the West Midlands.
“More than £8 million has been removed from criminals since April of 2008.
“Working together with the Crown Prosecution Service, we are identifying criminal investigations for early restraint and freeze the assets of defendants while the trial is in progress.
“This then becomes a major tool for enforcement at the conclusion of the trial where upon conviction, a confiscation order is made.
“We are determined to use these powers given to us to reduce crime, disrupt criminal enterprises and remove negative role models.
“What’s more, the money removed from criminals comes back into West Midlands Police to help in the fight against crime.”
Introduced in March 2003, the Proceeds of Crime Act gives the court the power to issue a Confiscation Order - a lifetime debt - where criminals are given a period to pay the order in the time specified or serve a default sentence.
Serving the default sentence does not wipe out the debt. Late payers can also be ordered to pay interest.
Among those investigated by financial police this year were members of a gang which plundered £2.9 million from the pension fund of a Birmingham lock-makers. The gang used the money from Hockley-based CW Cheney & Son Ltd to fund a high-roller lifestyle of Ferraris, helicopters, Rolex watches, exotic holidays and lap-dancers leaving pensioners facing financial ruin.
In June, Simon Maya, 67, from London, was given 15 months to sell two posh London homes as part of an order to pay £1.4 million or face a seven-and-a-half years sentence. In December Ian Selby, 58, was ordered to pay back more than £415,000 or serve an additional 18 months in jail.
A criminal linked to a gang of gun-toting robbers who shot dead an innocent bystander during a botched bank raid in Birmingham was ordered to pay back £145,000 after being jailed for robbery and firearms smuggling offences.