Tag: Wealthy Businessman
Dianne Ashby, 70, described herself as the “jam in the sandwich” between the police and her son, Lee Vincent, after police traced boxes of cash allegedly from the profits of a designer drug ring to her Takapuna home.
The High Court has ruled the property be restrained under the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act – the first step in seizing belongings shown to be the proceeds of crime.
Mrs Ashby’s lawyers filed an appeal with the High Court this week.
The court has heard evidence of wine carton-sized boxes filled with bundles of $20, $50 and $100 notes.
Police say the money came from the sale of pills containing a substance “substantially similar” to Ecstasy and were therefore Class-B and C drugs.
Lawyers for the drug-ring accused say the drugs were legal party pills.
Twenty-two people were arrested in a police raid. But Mr Vincent, who lives in a luxury resort in Thailand, was not among them.
Instead, lawyers for the police are trying to seize his assets.
The court was told that in the home of a wealthy businessman arrested in the investigation, detectives found a spreadsheet listing financial transactions.
The detectives believed the paperwork showed $11 million in cash was delivered between September 2010 and November 2011 to the home of Mrs Ashby.
Taped shut, the boxes of money were stored behind a chair in Mrs Ashby’s semi-detached home, police said. The money was collected by couriers who took it to Hong Kong, where it was banked, and the bank statements were sent back to Mrs Ashby.
“On occasions, one of the deliverers would open a carton and give Mrs Ashby bank notes in bundles,” the court heard.
She collected about $184,000 during the time in which $11 million was moved in and out of her home.
The court was told she used the money for medical and pharmaceutical expenses – but it was her use of the moneythat led police to seek seizure of her home.
Mrs Ashby told the Herald she was “too ill” to talk in detail about the case, but she expected the order to restrain her home would be overturned.
She said she had lived in the house for 30 years.
“I haven’t even been charged. I’m just the jam in the sandwich.”
Asked what her options were, she said: “I don’t know. There’s no guarantees I have to go anywhere.
“As far as we’re all concerned the whole thing has been blown out of proportion by the cops.
“Everyone involved was totally convinced and believed those pills were legal substances. Totally. Otherwise no one would ever have got involved. You’d be nuts, wouldn’t you? You’d be absolutely mad.
“It’s crazy. I haven’t even had as much as a speeding ticket in my life. To deliberately get involved in something you know to be illegal – you’d just need your head read.
“There’s an awful lot to come out of this yet. But you get tangled up in the legal system and you lose a lot of control.”
She said she heard from her son “off and on” and he was doing well.
“The whole thing sounds bad, but it is not as it appears.”
Mr Vincent is named in court documents alleging he organised the importing of powder which was pressed into pills by a designer drug syndicate in Auckland.
In February last year, police were granted restraining orders under the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act to freeze assets belonging to Mr Vincent.
These included the proceeds from a property he sold in the North Shore, money held on his behalf in a company, two Thai bank accounts and an apartment in Thailand.
It is understood the apartment is in The Cove beachside complex in Pattaya.
Mrs Ashby told the High Court last year that she had been reassured by her son that the money was from sales of legal party pills.
She would be “gobsmacked” if the money kept at her house amounted to $11 million, but did not dispute that she was given $184,000.
The court heard that she had worked as a bank teller and conceded under cross-examination that money from the pill sales was handled in a “weird and unconventional” manner.
“She also accepted that, were she a bank teller at a branch and every week or so a customer came in with a large carton of cash, she would think this is ‘rather odd’,” Justice John Priestley wrote in his judgment.
Despite Mrs Ashby’s assertions that she believed the money was from legitimate sales, Justice Priestley said she was “wilfully blind”.
“For 14 months, and on a regular basis, Mrs Ashby was content to allow cartons and boxes of bundled cash to be stored in her lounge,” he wrote.
“The same boxes were regularly collected and taken away by strangers …
“She was a woman with a banking background. She well knew that it was highly unusual for any business to deal in this manner with its cash sales and revenue. Why not bank it? She never asked.”
If the appeal is unsuccessful, another court hearing will determine if her property will go to the Crown.
Arran Coghlan, 40, was arrested in February this year after Stephen ‘Aki’ Akinyemi, 36, was found lying dead in a pool of blood in the bathroom of Coghlan’s luxurious £2million Cheshire mansion.
Coghlan dialled 999 to say he had been attacked in his home.
The father-of-one was himself suffering from serious knife wounds and had to be rushed to hospital for emergency treatment.
He told detectives he had been stabbed in an unprovoked attack by Mr Akinyemi after the pair had met up for talks.
Police launched an investigation into the incident and just days later they charged Coghlan with murder.
But yesterday the CPS dropped the murder charge against him after sources said they could not prove Coghlan did not act in self defence.
Last night a spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said: ‘The decision to charge Mr Coghlan was made on the evidence available at the time and it was expected that further evidence would be available.
‘This further evidence, including forensic evidence, has now been received and reviewed by the CPS, which has a duty to keep cases under continuous review to ensure charges are still appropriate.
‘In this case, having reviewed evidence not available at the time of charge, the CPS has decided there is no longer a realistic prospect of conviction against Mr Coghlan and has today offered no evidence against him on the charge of murder.’
A spokesman for Cheshire Police said: ‘The criminal investigation conducted by Cheshire Police into the circumstances leading to Mr Akinyemi’s death was conducted thoroughly, impartially, and professionally.’
Cochlan, who spent five months in prison on remand, was released from prison last night.
It is the third time Cochlan has faced charges of murder after the deaths of gangland rivals in Greater Manchester.
n 1996 he was acquitted of the gangland murder of drug baron Chris Little dubbed the Devil Dog Mobster because he set his rottweilers on rivals.
Little, 32, was shot dead at the wheel of his Mercedes but after a trial Coghland was cleared of the murder after telling the jury he could not have been the assassin as he was playing computer games at the time of the killing.
In 2002 Coghlan stood trial accused of murder again after claims he had kidnapped and burnt to death petty drug dealer David Barnshaw, 32, in the boot of a car in September 1999.
Jurors were told that Coghlan – who has a bed shaped like a pirate ship – had ‘built an empire through ruthless violence, demanding respect and loyalty from all those who worked for him.’
The case against him and others collapsed when it was revealed police had failed to pass on important information about another possible suspect.
Coghlan, nicknamed ‘Az’ on the registration plate of his Bentley Turbo, has always denied he is the Godfather to a criminal empire and claimed detectives were involved in a campaign to get him at all costs.
Coghlan – who survived an attempt on his life in a bar on New Years Day 2009 – was expected to return to his home in the leafy town of in Alderley Edge, Cheshire – known as ‘Millionaires’ Row’ – where Premiership footballers rub shoulders with soap stars.
His barrister Michael Wolkind QC said: ‘Mr Akinyemi was armed, wearing body armour and intent on violence towards our client. A man who has been wrongly accused of murder twice can be innocent three times and is entitled to defend himself if someone comes into his house armed with a knife and a gun.
‘Mr Coghlan told police this at the time but was forced to spend months and months on remand. We had to painstakingly check every aspect forensically before the charges were finally dropped.’
Coghlan was released on bail but will be back before the courts again in September on an unrelated assault charge.