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Last Updated: Monday, 20 September, 2004, 15:18 GMT 16:18 UK
Loyalist's 1.5m assets seized
The house in Crawfordsburn owned by Jim Johnston
Johnston's luxury home will be sold off
The cash and property assets of a murdered loyalist paramilitary leader exceeding 1m have been seized in the first action of its kind.

An order was granted as a result of an agreed settlement with the representatives of Jim Johnston's estate.

Johnston, 45, a member of the loyalist paramilitary Red Hand Commando, was shot dead in the driveway of his home in Crawfordsburn, County Down in May 2003.

The revenge killing was part of a bitter feud between rival loyalist factions.

The High Court move followed an application by the Assets Recovery Agency.

The agency has been granted the first civil recovery order in the UK to exceed 1m.

Last year saw a record of 54.5m taken from criminals, an increase of 7.5m on the previous year and further proof that the Proceeds of Crime Act, passed two years ago, is hitting criminals where it hurts
David Blunkett
Home Secretary

It was granted by Mr Justice Coghlin under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 in the High Court in Belfast on Monday.

Assets valued at between 1.2m and 1.25m have been forfeited.

These include Johnston's former luxury home in Crawfordsburn, seven properties in Northern Ireland, a holiday home in County Sligo and a commercial premises in Belfast.

The agency said there "was also a significant investment portfolio".

'Very visible reminder'

Its assistant director, Alan McQuillan, said it was an important landmark for the agency and its partners in the fight against organised crime.

"PSNI referred this case to the agency and have worked closely with us to provide the information needed to convince the High Court that the assets should be forfeited," he said.

"This result serves clear notice on criminals that the extensive powers under the Proceeds of Crime Act are effective in taking the profit out of crime.

Man in handcuffs
The task force aims to clamp down on organised crime

"The outcome of this case is a very visible reminder to everyone in the community that there is no hiding place for ill-gotten gains. Working with its partners, ARA will exercise its powers firmly and fairly to ensure that, increasingly, crime does not pay."

The High Court has appointed a trustee to take possession of the recovered property and liquidate it.

The proceeds will be recycled into crime fighting initiatives, said the agency.

Johnston's widow and partner will each retain a small house from the estate - representing a net transfer of approximately 90,000.

Home Secretary David Blunkett said he was pleased with the judgement.

"Measures we have passed will at last stop criminals from benefiting from their crimes," he said.

"Last year saw a record of 54.5m taken from criminals, an increase of 7.5m on the previous year and further proof that the Proceeds of Crime Act, passed two years ago, is hitting criminals where it hurts."

Secretary of State Paul Murphy said the ruling "is sending out a clear message that crime does not pay and that there is no hiding place for ill-gotten gains".

  • A 39-year-old man, Robert Young, is awaiting trial. He denies murdering Johnston.




  • WATCH AND LISTEN
    Assets Recovery Agency Director Jane Earle
    welcomed the seizure of the estate



    SEE ALSO:
    Police probe loyalist murder
    10 May 03  |  Northern Ireland
    Crime assets 'will be seized'
    12 Jun 03  |  Northern Ireland
    NI gangs 'extorting millions'
    11 Jun 03  |  Northern Ireland
    Agency targets paramilitaries
    24 Feb 03  |  Northern Ireland


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