Canoe fraudster ordered to hand over £40,000

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CANOE fraudster John Darwin has been ordered by a court to pay a £40,000 lump sum over to the authorities after two pensions matured.

A Proceeds of Crime Act hearing at Teesside Crown Court heard that he had so far paid back only £121 of the £679,073.62 he was found to have benefitted from after faking his own death.

Darwin, 63, of Seaton Carew, Hartlepool, did not challenge the application by the Crown to have the money removed from his bank accounts, which are the subject of restraints.

The pensions are understood to be legitimately earned from his time as a teacher and a prison officer. Although lawfully obtained, the Crown could still get hold of them.

After the hearing Jolyon Perks, who prosecuted, said this was not the end of the matter for Darwin, and should he come into more money in the future, further applications to take back the cash would be made.

He told reporters: “We believe it sends a strong signal to those who seek to benefit from their criminal conduct that these orders have teeth. They will be pursued and they will be rigorously enforced. The Proceeds of Crime Act is intended to be draconian.”

Darwin did not comment as he left court. It was the same venue where he was jailed with his wife Anne in 2008 for fraud.

Anne Darwin, now split from her husband, has repaid more than £500,000 under a separate Proceeds of Crime order after selling properties held in her name. She still has around £177,000 outstanding to pay back.

John Darwin was reported missing in a canoe in the North Sea in March 2002.

His wife collected more than £500,000 in life insurance payouts, while he hid in their home, leaving their two sons to believe he was dead.

In December 2007, Darwin walked into a London police station, claiming he had amnesia, and was reunited with his stunned sons.

His wife, who had fled with him to Panama, pretended to be shocked until a photograph emerged of them posing together after his supposed death.

She was later jailed for six-and-a-half years for fraud and money-laundering.

Outside court Detective Sergeant Tommy Maughan, from the North East Regional Asset Recovery Team, said: “I’m pleased with the outcome today; Mr Darwin has now seen first-hand the full force of the Proceeds of Crime Act legislation in action.

“It’s a robust law that allows police and prosecutors to make sure those who have benefited from crime pay back what they owe.

“His full benefit from crime has still not been paid off, and if he comes into any substantial assets in the future we will again consider asking the court to revisit the Confiscation Order granted against him in 2009.

“Criminals should be warned that even if assets are gained legitimately this legislation can be used and their crimes may just come back to haunt them.”