I have written before about the fate of items confiscated from money launderers. Often, of course, the assets have gone: the money has been spent on consumables such as fine wines and fancy holidays. But criminals do like to surround themselves with the trappings of wealth, and this can be very handy when it comes to confiscation and – if possible – reparation for victims.
In a recent case, however, there was no question of returning criminal proceeds to those who had paid it to the criminal, as he was a seller of illegal drugs. Martin Fillery was always interested in cannabis production; in fact, he wrote a screenplay about it before he decided to put theory into practice. He and two associates set up a giant cannabis farm in RGHQ Chilmark – an underground nuclear bunker constructed in rural Wiltshire in the 1980s to house local government in the event of a nuclear attack during the height of the Cold War. The bunker has been decommissioned but is still intact – and the nuclear blast doors make the site almost completely impenetrable. But in February 2017 police intercepted Gillery and his two colleagues with keys in their hands, and discovered that the bunker was home to 4,000 cannabis plants, capable of producing £2 million of drugs a year. The men had bypassed mains electricity into the site, illegally abstracting approximately £650,000 of electricity. In August 2017, Fillery was jailed for eight years for drug offences, abstracting electricity and money laundering – and so the confiscation proceedings began.
It turned out that Fillery was quite the collector of film memorabilia and boys’ toys – all of which were seized and sent to an auction house in Northern Ireland. And didn’t they do well? A BMW that was driven by the character Biff in the film “Back to the Future II” went for £20,000, while a “Batboat” fetched £15,000. A replica of the Trotters Independent Traders-branded yellow three-wheeler from “Only Fools and Horses” sold for £6,000, and a six-foot tall IronMan statue went for £3,100. Bids came from all over the world and, as auctioneer Aidan Larkin said: “All of the money we raise goes back into the court and the public purse as part of the wider proceeds of crime case.” As Del Boy would say, lovely jubbly.