Pensioners guilty of money laundering plot

THREE pensioners who collected tens of thousands of pounds in rent without paying any tax have been given suspended prison sentences.

THREE pensioners who collected tens of thousands of pounds in rent without paying any tax have been given suspended prison sentences.

Police discovered a �243,267 hoard of cash at the house they shared at in Red Lodge, near Mildenhall, during a two day search operation at the Ponderosa scrapyard in Bridge End Road in September last year.

Much of the money was packed into confectionery tins and envelopes in the bedroom of 69-year-old Bernadette McGivern, Ipswich Crown Court was told yesterday. Two tins alone contained over �24,000 each.

Bernadette McGivern, of Bridge End Road, Red Lodge, her husband Harold McGivern, 66, now of Greenhill Road, Willesden, London, and Noel Healy, 77, of Bridge End Road, Red Lodge, pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to launder money.

The offence had been committed between March 24, 2003 and September 30, last year, the court heard.

They had been arrested and charged as a result of an investigation by Suffolk police codenamed Operation Basil which also targeted the scrapyard and resulted in the McGivern's son Robert facing other charges.

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Prosecutor Andrew Shaw said that the three had occupied separate bedrooms at the house where in addition to the �231,000 found in Bernadette McGivern's room a further �5,000 had been found in her husband's room and other amounts around the property, all in banknotes and coins.

Mr Shaw said that police inquiries revealed that Bernadette McGivern and Healy jointly owned a large house in Merrick Road, Willesden, which was divided into 16 letting rooms. Mrs McGivern also owned another house in Greenhill Road, Willesden, which was divided in 23 letting rooms.

Accountants called in by the Crown Prosecution Service to establish how much the two properties would generate in rent estimated the figure to be in the region of �144,000 a year, said Mr Shaw.

Inquiries with HM Revenue and Customs showed no trace of tax having been paid on that income and no records of the McGivern's having paid any tax at all. Healy had paid a "modest" amount on his share of the profits from the Ponderosa scrapyard business.

Steven McGarry, mitigating for Bernadette McGivern, said she was of previous good character and had pleaded guilty, although only shortly before her trial was due to go ahead.

Mrs McGivern was "something of an anathema", said Mr McGarry, having managed to avoid coming to the attention of the tax authorities all her life.

Appearing for Noel Healy, Christopher Morgan said his client too did not draw a state pension and had founded the scrapyard business at Red Lodge, although in recent years after selling part of the business to Robert McGivern he had effectively been a "sleeping partner".

John McDairmid, mitigating for Harold McGivern, said his arrest, the possibility of imprisonment and the extensive search of his home had led to the onset of depression.

Passing sentence, Judge David Goodin said "This was a serious criminal conspiracy between the

three of you to cheat the public revenue of significant sums of money".

"You may be middle aged or a little more now but you began this caper when you were rather younger, in your prime I have no doubt," said Judge Goodin. "You took cash from those rental properties and salted it away in very considerable sums."

Judge Goodin sentenced Bernadette and Harold McGivern and Noel Healy each to 48 weeks imprisonment, suspended for two years.

The McGiverns will also be subject to a curfew between the hours of 8pm and 7am for the next 26 weeks. Healy must also complete 80 hours unpaid community work.

A further hearing is due to be scheduled early next year to consider applications for the seizure

of assets owned by the McGivern's and Healy under the Proceeds of Crime Act.