Cricklewood landlord ordered to pay £700,000 or face long prison sentence
A landlord guilty of breaching a planning enforcement notice has been ordered to pay a record fine and costs to Barnet Council after a lengthy and complex investigation led by the council’s planning and Corporate Anti-Fraud Teams (CAFT).
In the biggest planning enforcement and confiscation investigation the borough has ever seen, landlord Saied Rahmdezfouli was ordered to pay over £700,000. The record sentence was imposed at Wood Green Crown Court on 21 September.
Mr Rahmdezfouli was originally found guilty of the planning offences at Wood Green Crown Court in August 2015. The case was referred for confiscation from the council’s CAFT, which had been conducting the financial investigation in parallel with the planning enforcement investigation since 2010.
A Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) investigation was conducted and it was calculated that Mr Rahmdezfouli had generated a profit of £555,954.49 from his criminal conduct, by renting out the property in breach of the enforcement notice. The POCA enables all such income to be confiscated by the court.
The court heard that in September 2006 the council had refused Mr Rahmdezfouli’s proposal to convert a semi-detached family home at Quantock Gardens, Cricklewood, into nine flats.
Despite this refusal, Mr Rahmdezfouli subdivided his property illegally and rented rooms out which were substandard in size and poorly designed.
The council served a planning enforcement notice against Mr Rahmdezfouli in March 2007, requiring him to comply by 19 June 2007. Mr Rahmdezfouli ignored the planning enforcement notice and continued to rent out units within the property. Over a number of years Mr Rahmdezfouli made numerous court appearances, while at the same time continuing to rent out his property.
Financial investigators from Barnet Council investigated the case using special powers under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA) to identify and calculate the criminal benefit that Mr Rahmdezfouli had received from rental income.
At the sentencing and confiscation hearing at Wood Green Crown Court on 21 September 2016, the judge made a confiscation order against Mr Rahmdezfouli for £555,954.49, which was the profit generated from his criminal conduct.
If he fails to comply with this confiscation order within a three-month period, he faces a default prison sentence of five years and four months. In addition, he must also pay a £65,000 fine for the planning offences and £80,000 in costs.
Leader of Barnet Council, Councillor Richard Cornelius, said:
“I am delighted that after a lengthy legal battle, the justice system has supported us in making sure that anyone who flouts our planning laws is suitably punished.
“The Proceeds of Crime Act is there to ensure that crime doesn’t pay, which is why we have a dedicated team who are able to carry this type of complex investigation for the council in collaboration with our partners.
“Planning permission rules exist to ensure everyone in our borough has a safe and healthy place to live, and we cannot allow anyone to breach these rules by providing substandard accommodation. We will always do our best to ensure that this illegal activity is stopped as soon as possible.“
According to Barnet Council, the house has now been restored to a single-dwelling house, in compliance with the planning enforcement notice.