A FRAUDSTER who was caught with a “glittering Aladdin’s cave” of gold and silver bullion in his luxury flat has been told to hand over £170,000 of his ill-gotten gains.
A Maserati sports car was also seized in the raid on credit card scammer Szymon Lam’s penthouse flat in Leeds city centre.
The Polish national was jailed for three years last July after pleading guilty to money laundering offences.
Lam siphoned off the proceeds of his £128,000 deception into off-shore bank accounts and used it to buy property in Germany.
Police searched Lam’s home at the Santorini flats beside the River Aire in September 2010 after receiving a tip-off from colleagues in London.
Lam was returned to Leeds Crown Court yesterday to face a hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act. The court heard he had generated £186,367.99 through criminal enterprise.
His available assets were valued at £178,851.86. He was ordered to repay the amount within a month or face having a further two years and four months added to his sentence.
Det Sgt Tom Walsh, of the Leeds District Proceeds of Crime Team, said: “Our investigation uncovered a wealth of evidence which showed that Szymon Lam was living a lifestyle way beyond his legitimate means and one which therefore could only have been funded by crime.
“This case again demonstrates the value of the Proceeds of Crime Act which helps us ensure that crime does not pay.
“It is obviously very unusual for officers to come across such a large amount of gold and silver bullion while searching a flat in Leeds city centre.”
Officers made the discovery at his flat during an investigation by the Metropolitan Police in which details of 600 credit cards had been stolen and used as part of large-scale fraud. This started a major money laundering investigation by West Yorkshire Police officers.
Officers in Leeds were asked to go to the flat after Lam’s wife was detained at the Chelsea Bridge Hotel after a form was completed with a false address.
Police went to her room and found a laptop containing high volumes of credit card numbers, prompting the raid on Lam’s apartment in Leeds.
Prosecutor Ian Brook said: “When they got there the police found a glittering Aladdin’s cave.”
He said photographs of the bullion, worth around £90,000 made “impressive viewing”.
Another laptop containing credit card details was also found in Leeds.
The court heard Lam and his wife were highly intelligent, financially astute and had 21 bank accounts.
After his arrest Lam told police he had come to the UK eight years previously with just £500 in his pocket and was now worth £250,000.
Emma Bennett, for Lam, said he was solely responsible for the offending. She said Lam turned to fraud after being made redundant from a job in IT and running up gambling debts without his wife knowing.
The barrister said he was introduced to people at a casino who gave him the idea of committing fraud online.
The ruling marks a solid start to 2013 for West Yorkshire Police proceeds of crime officers, who last year seized a record figure of £12.3m from the county’s criminals, more than double the £5.6m total from the previous year.
Figures obtained by the Yorkshire Post revealed the cash has been collected from some of the biggest organised crime groups under the Act, which is now a decade old.
The sum represents 63 per cent of the £19m seized by Yorkshire’s four police forces.
Statistics released under the Freedom of Information Act showed West Yorkshire Police has increased the amount of cash it has secured through the Proceeds of Crime Act every year since 2007.
The Why Should They? campaign encourages members of the public to report people they suspect are living a life funded by the proceeds of crime anonymously and in confidence on 0800 555 111.