In the Matter of Craig Johnson (2013)
The court made declarations that certain real property and pension funds were the realisable assets of a person convicted of fraud and money laundering and subject to a confiscation order.
The applicant receiver applied for orders in relation to properties and pension funds which he alleged were part of the realisable assets of the defendant (J), who had been convicted of VAT fraud and money laundering.
A confiscation order for £26 million had been made against J, in respect of which there was a significant shortfall. Of the 10 respondents to the instant application, only one (S) opposed the orders sought. She was the former wife of one of J's business associates. J had bought a property where a company he owned traded. Land Registry records showed a transfer of two titles to J's mother, who lived overseas. They were then registered in S's name. J's position was that neither he nor his mother had authorised or executed deeds that effected transfers of those titles into S's name, and that he was the beneficial owner and that they should be sold and the proceeds put towards satisfying the confiscation order. S contended that she had received one of the titles as a reimbursement from the company for tax debts that she had paid on its behalf. In respect of the other, she claimed that J's parents had asked her to sell it for them, and for that purpose it was transferred into her name. She said the proceeds of sale, when she sold it to the ninth respondent (H), went straight to J's company. She did not produce any documentary evidence to support her version of events. Land Registry records confirmed the transfer to H, which he confirmed in a witness statement. At the instant hearing S declined the opportunity to give evidence on oath. The receiver could not challenge H's assertion that he was a bona fide purchaser without notice of any interest in the property except S's.
On the evidence, the three registered titles were part of J's realisable property notwithstanding the purported transfers. There was no documentary evidence to support the transfers for which S contended, and her version of events was extremely implausible. J's company had set up the pension scheme. On its face it was conventional but the Crown Prosecution Service had told the receiver its view that all the company's assets should be treated as if they were J's. There were no accounts showing the flow of money into the pension fund or where it had come from. J's convictions showed that he was adept at transferring of money. The receiver believed that the pension scheme was set up to launder money. On the basis of that evidence, which was not challenged, the funds put into the pension scheme were proceeds of crime. No documents had been produced to support the position that the cash came from J's company rather than simply via it.
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09 May 2013
Queen's Bench Division