Hampton Wick drug dealer, Max Free ordered to pay back criminal proceeds
By adam_leone | Monday, October 15, 2012, 15:52
Convicted drug dealer, Max Free, 43, from Hampton Wick has been ordered to repay £900,000 in proceeeds following an investigation by the National Terrorist Financial Investigation Unit (NTFIU).
His assets included four properties, almost £14,000 cash in six bank accounts, a stocks and shares portfolio worth £100,000, and a £18,000 ISA.
He was ordered to pay £478,914 within six months under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA) or face a further three years six months consecutive sentence.
The confiscation order comes after Free was originally arrested in May 2010 in connection with an inquiry into money laundering. Police searched his home and found 4kg of cannabis resin, with a wholesale value of £3,434.
In October 2010, Free pleaded guilty to possession with intent to supply the drug and was jailed for 12 months, suspended for two years, and given 200 hours of unpaid work and a six month curfew order. No further action was taken in respect of the money laundering allegations.
Following this conviction, specialist financial investigation detectives from the NTFIU turned their financial expertise to this criminal case and commenced a confiscation investigation against him.
Investigators looked into Free's bank accounts, property purchases and business dealings and found that £1.6million had been credited into his bank accounts in a six year period to 2010, which detectives judged to be the proceeds of crime.
In particular, they found evidence that Free had paid large sums of money, including separate transactions of £20,000 and £80,000 to individuals deemed by the court to be closely associated with large scale drug importation.
Free fought the confiscation and claimed in court that the deposits in his accounts were the profits of property deals and repayments of loans to associates.
However under the terms of POCA, the duty was on Free to prove that his assets and the cash that passed through his accounts were legitimate, and he failed to convince the court.
Detective Superintendent Terri Nicholson, of the National Terrorist Financial Investigation Unit, said:
"Max Free is paying a heavy price for his drug dealing. He was caught with drugs with a wholesale value of just £3,434 but thanks to the work of financial investigators from the Met's National Terrorist Financial Investigation Unit, he is now faced with a confiscation order against him for £905,596.
"We knew that Free had profited hugely from his criminal activity and by working hard to present this evidence to the court, we have ensured that he will not continue to enjoy the vast sums of money made from his crimes.
"This case sends a strong message that crime really does not pay and demonstrates that the Proceeds of Crime Act is one of the most powerful tools available to police to tackle criminals."
In his ruling on confiscation, His Honour Judge McCreath, the Honourable Recorder of Westminster, said he formed a very poor impression of Mr Free as a witness due to his lack of frankness in disclosure, his contradictory evidence, and his association with people involved in criminal activity.