New questions over 'missing' £1million paid by Plymouth club boss
PLYMOUTH MP Alison Seabeck is to ask the Government fresh questions over a £1million payment made by jailed ex-Dance Academy boss Manoucehr Bahmanzadeh.
As a result of Herald enquiries, Ms Seabeck said she would table new questions to the Justice Minister.
She will request greater clarity over where the money was paid and why it has yet to reach the UK.
It follows information The Herald has learned from sources at the police and Crown Prosecution Service, and legal representatives, that the £1m may still be sitting in a Jersey bank account.
Last month, in response to a question by Ms Seabeck, parliamentary under secretary Crispin Blunt stated the money – from a Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) order made in September 2010 against Bahmanzadeh – had been "paid in full".
However, The Herald has learned there is an ongoing legal wrangle between the Home Office and the State of Jersey Attorney General's office, which has retained the money.
It is normal practice for any 'proceeds of crime', such as cash or assets, to be seized by the Government and then handed out to local charities and the criminal justice and other deserving causes.
Ms Seabeck told The Herald: "It is legitimate that we ask these questions.
"As I understand it, the intention of the POCA legislation was for the money to be ploughed back into the criminal justice system. If that's not happening then we need to know about that.
"We need to know where the money has been paid, which account was it actually paid into.
"If The Herald's findings are right, then how many other cases are there where the money has not gone to the right people?
"Is it [the seized money] being used for the purpose it was originally intended?"
A spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service said that "confiscation proceedings are complete".
But when asked if any of the £1million had been handed over to HM Court Service – the usual destination for seized assets – the CPS spokesman said they could not comment.
They added there was an "asset sharing negotiation" going on between "the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the State of Jersey"
The FCO told The Herald they knew of no such negotiations and forwarded our questions to the Home Office.
Following numerous requests for clarity, a Home Office spokesperson said: "Bahmanzadeh has been deprived of £1million of illegally obtained assets, which is £1million that has been taken out of the hands of criminals."
However, when asked if the money was still with the State of Jersey, the spokesman added: "As with all transactions of this nature we are now in discussion with the overseas authority regarding the seized funds."
Sources speaking to The Herald have claimed the £1million has not been forwarded to the UK authorities, causing consternation among those tasked with retrieving the assets.
It is understood that while Bahmanzadeh chose to pay the POCA order from money in a Jersey bank account, the confiscation order then had to be registered on the island.
According to a source he was able to "satisfy the order" by paying the Jersey authorities.
The Herald has learned the CPS has no legal power to compel the Jersey authorities to forward the money to HM Court Service.
One source told The Herald: "HM Court service can't tell Jersey what to do. We've asked our Government to negotiate with the State of Jersey. But a lot of time and effort – and money – has already gone into trying to get that money."
Another source told The Herald the CPS was "frustrated" the money had not been handed over, but claimed the service had completed its primary task, which was to confiscate the cash from the individual.
The source said: "It's now for the Government to negotiate with Jersey to get the money back."
Jersey's Attorney General told The Herald: "The Home Office has been in contact with Jersey in relation to the funds being remitted to the UK. There is a Jersey legal process that must be followed before any such funds may be remitted, and Jersey is currently in communication with the Home Office regarding the matter."
Last month The Herald reported that Bahmanzadeh had won his right to appeal against his nine-year jail sentence.
The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) announced that new evidence "regarding the credibility and reliability of witness testimony" could see the Appeal courts either free the club boss or reduce his sentence.
Over the past few years, tens of millions of pounds seized from criminals by asset recovery agencies has been shared by the British government between police, prosecutors and courts.
A portion of the ill-gotten booty has also been passed onto deserving local charities and projects which aim to steer youngsters away from a life of crime.