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20 Jul 2015

Two years to obtain compensation order

We last looked at Graham Axford back in 2013 - the legal system grinds exceedingly slow (making a mockery of claims that it can't modernise or save money).

Now here he is again. He has just been ordered to repay £35,000 within three months or go back to prison.

As we know, he was jailed in March 2013 for 16 weeks for falsely claiming £29,000 of housing and council tax benefit between 2003 and 2011.

The 60-year-old, now living in Haling Park Road, South Croydon, was living in a council flat in Belgrave Road, South Norwood at the time of his fraud but was evicted from that flat.

Axford failed to tell the council he owned a home near Newport in Wales and part-owned a farmhouse, land and holiday cottage in Normandy, France. His yacht has since been sold to pay off marina fees while it was found he owned five acres of land in South Carolina.

His fraud gained public attention in November 2011 when was the subject of a BBC Panorama investigation into benefit cheats.

The confiscation order means he must sell his assets to pay back the money he made from the criminal activity. It states he must pay back £35,166.37 in three months or face a 14 month prison sentence with interest accruing on the debt. Approximately £30,000 of this will go to the council with the remainder divided between the court and Treasury.

In his defence in the original court case he denied owning the Welsh property and had transferred the ownership of the French home to his wife. He had denied three counts of benefit fraud by false representations in the original trial.

Councillor Simon Hall, cabinet member for finance and treasury, said: "This has been a long-running case and I'd like to pay tribute to the tenacity of our investigators for bringing this to a positive conclusion. It shows that not only will we prosecute benefit cheats, but we will also investigate how much they have gained from their criminal activity, and seek to claim it back."

A long-running case? You can say that again. If it takes so much work, and so much time, to get a confiscation order against one offender, is there any wonder that the resources aren't there to investigate benefit fraud more widely?

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