A family will have to surrender almost £100,000 after a judge ruled money found stashed at the village pub where they live was the proceeds of crime.
A total of £89,250 belonging to Catherine and Jerry McCann, their son Jerry jnr and their son-in-law Daniel Hills was seized from the White Horse Inn, Otham, in three police raids in February and June, 2014, and May this year. The raids followed burglaries in the area.
During a three-day trial at Maidstone Magistrates’ Court last week Gordon Menzies, representing Kent Police, told Deputy District Judge Michael Goodwin there was no identifiable source of the money and it stemmed from crimes linked to the family.
He claimed the family was a network of burglars who funded their lavish lifestyle through crime and argued some of the money came from two burglaries in Otham and Tovil where a total of £20,000 in cash, watches and jewellery was stolen.
While no one was convicted of the crimes and no items found at the White Horse Lane pub were linked to the thefts, Mr Goodwin ruled money found at the premises stemmed from the offences.
During the hearing Mr Menzies said between 2003 and 2011 the McCann’s had paid no tax and spent £690,000 on expensive cars, watches and property.
He referred to a ‘black hole’ in their finances and asked: "Are they the world’s best savers or were they involved in burglaries?"
Catherine McCann purchased the White Horse Inn for £250,000 in 2010 – money which it is claimed came from the sale of their Sutton Road home seven years earlier – in the process outbidding villagers who raised £235,000 in less than a month.
Senghin Kong, representing Mrs McCann in the civil proceedings, said the remaining money spent during this period came from the modest amount earned by Mrs McCann buying and selling things and business carried out by Jerry McCann between 2005 and 2008 in Ireland, when the couple were separated.
“Having considered the evidence I am satisfied the applicant has proved that the respondents and their family are heavily involved in criminal activity, including burglaries and rogue trading.” — Deputy District Judge Michael Goodwin
But the court heard during that period 55-year-old Mr McCann had been stopped a number of times in England and had given an address in the same road as his wife in Essex.
Mr Menzies asked Mrs McCann: “The father of your children was living next to you and you just happened to miss each other like ships in the night?”
To which she replied: “I suppose so, like ships in the night, yes.”
The family had argued the cash came from pub takings, rent on a property in Essex and Mr McCann’s scrap metal and car dealing businesses, with Mr Hills, 37, claiming just over £6,000 of the total was money he had been loaned for a car.
Mrs McCann, 57, who runs the pub, said the reason 1,042 £50 notes were found during the first raid was many of her customers were travellers who didn’t have bank accounts and ground workers who were paid in the denomination.
She claimed the police targetted her family as they were travellers.
When quizzed about her involvement in crime she said the only time she had been involved in burglaries was when the police stormed her house and took her money.
Mr Menzies said even if the cash had a legitimate source, no tax had been paid on it.
He said investing non-taxed money constitutes money laundering.
The court heard it was the family’s intention to invest it in land.
Mr Menzies said documents found during the first raid referred to Nickley Wood in Ashford, which was on the market for £67,500.
Today Mr Goodwin ruled all of the cash seized was linked to crime, was destined for future investment and should be surrendered.
He said: “Having considered the evidence I am satisfied the applicant has proved that the respondents and their family are heavily involved in criminal activity, including burglaries and rogue trading.”
The family will also have to pay Kent Police £10,020 in costs.
A Kent Police spokesman said: "Any cash forfeited is paid to the Home Office and then we receive 50% back. That money then goes back into the money laundering/economic crime teams that carry out POCA investigations."
The other half goes to the government.