A previous waste offender has been ordered to repay almost £1 million and warned that he faces four and a half years in jail if he doesn’t pay up.
This is the largest Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) ruling the Environment Agency (EA) has secured against any individual to date. The EA working with financial investigators from New Scotland Yard in a three-year investigation have shown that Hugh O’Donnell, 64, from Reading laundered millions of pounds in illegal profits.
O’Donnell was jailed for four years in June, for running an illegal waste site the size of five football pitches in Aldermaston, Reading, as well as firearms offences.
After a raid at an illegal site, the EA and Thames Valley Police seized evidence of illegal waste activity, stolen plant equipment, an unlicensed hand gun and ammunition, stolen vehicles and approximately £50,000 cash.
O’Donnell and his accomplices, Robert Evans, 62, and Peter Lavelle, 28, both from Reading, were jailed by Isleworth Crown Court for running the multi-million pound waste crime business from a site in Reading.
EA prosecution team leader Angus Innes said: “This investigation has been one of the biggest and most complex ever undertaken by the EA, working with the London Regional Asset Recovery Team, using intelligence and forensic science to proactively target an organised criminal gang running an illegal waste site. Waste crime puts the environment and human health at risk and undermines legitimate waste business.”
O’Donnell laundered illegal profits through various trading names and aliases. His accomplices were used to run the day to day operations of phoney businesses, investigators spent three years examining bank accounts and exhibitions for evidence against O’Donnell.
Over six years, O’Donnell’s turnover was 100 times the amount declared to Inland Revenue, despite owning several properties.
Judge HHJ Edmunds QC said: “Mr O’Donnell said monies were paid into an account used to conceal ownership of assets and transferring money. There were a number of accounts under different names. Vehicles were even registered to one of the companies created to assist the fraud.”