Pubdate: Sun, 30 May 1999
Source: Sunday Times (UK)
Copyright: 1999 Times Newspapers Ltd.


Thomas McGraw seldom makes mistakes. He cannot afford to in his line of
business. But he miscalculated when he started a civil court action to
reclaim UKP169,000 seized by customs officers at Gatwick airport.

The money was taken from a body belt worn by his brother-in-law, John Healy,
who had flown in from Spain. Healy tried to persuade customs officers it was
a down payment on a pub deal that went wrong. But when McGraw went to court
to retrieve the money, he had a different explanation. It was, he told the
judge, his profit from renovating old ice cream vans.

Unknown to McGraw, the money was contaminated with cannabis resin and the
judge ruled that it was the proceeds of a drug deal. McGraw went away

The court hearing cost him another UKP10,000. More important, he had
associated himself in public with international drug trafficking. His last
conviction six years before had resulted in a UKP50 fine for a minor public
order offence.

Soon after, customs officers at Gatwick seized UKP40,000 from another of
McGraw's couriers. Then the Irish criminal assets bureau raided six bank
accounts opened by one of McGraw's friends and seized UKP180,000. McGraw
also forfeited the Paradise bar in Donegal, which was registered in the
names of two of his friends. The Irish authorities decided to treat McGraw
as a drug dealer.

Yet in Scotland, where he lives, he remains untouchable. Last July he was
acquitted of drug charges in the country's most expensive criminal trial.
While three of his closest associates, including Healy, were jailed for a
total of 24 years, McGraw walked into the Edinburgh sunshine and disappeared
in a chauffeur-driven black BMW. Until he is convicted of a serious offence
the authorities are powerless to strip him of his great wealth.

McGRAW, nicknamed The Licensee, built his multi-million-pound fortune on the
ruins of the criminal empire created by Glasgow's godfather, Arthur
Thompson, who died of a heart attack in 1993.

Official frustration that he and others like him have grown rich while the
forces of law and order look on impotently was voiced by Henry McLeish when
he was Scotland's home affairs minister. Advocating that Scotland follow
Ireland's example - seizing assets on suspicion instead of conviction -
McLeish said: "These people will know they cannot add insult to injury by
having their assets in the bank."

However, an investigation by The Sunday Times has revealed that even
criminals who are convicted of serious offences have little to fear from
asset seizures, despite the tough talking of politicians. The prosecuting
authorities take only a fraction of their assets.

In the last financial year, only 20 seizure orders were granted for a total
of UKP630,000, an average of just over UKP30,000 in each case. Yet some of
those targeted made hundreds of thousands, or even more, from crime.

Today, for the first time, The Sunday Times publishes what is effectively an
Underworld Rich List, the top 10 criminal millionaires in Scotland. We have
calculated their wealth

using official and underworld sources. Although the majority are in prison,
none has had more than a small proportion of their assets seized.

Roderick McLean, for example, was sentenced to 28 years in jail (reduced by
the appeal court a fortnight ago to 21 years) for masterminding a cannabis
smuggling operation that led to the death of a customs officer. McLean and
his accomplices, including his son, were caught red-handed at sea by a
customs boat. Alastair Soutar was killed when the customs vessel collided
with McLean's boat as the gang set fire to its UKP10m haul in an attempt to
destroy the evidence.

McLean forfeited UKP100,000 after a confiscation order, but he is still
worth UKP4.5m. He is No 5 in the Underworld Rich List. His wife, Susan,
continues to live luxuriously on the proceeds of his crimes.

John McCarthy, 53, was jailed last year for dealing in heroin. His business
was under surveillance for months and detectives estimated it was generating
up to UKP18m a year. stored cash in a variety of safe houses, but so far
only one has been uncovered and UKP25,000 seized.

It is not just McCarthy's hidden caches that benefit from this. Asset
seizures are handled by a small team within the overstretched Crown Office.
Even when a convicted criminal's assets are identified and valued, the Crown
Office prefers to negotiate a seizure figure than to risk a time-consuming
court battle.

Since the 1995 Proceeds of Crime Act was introduced, only one of more than
40 seizure orders have landed in court. But even it ended with a partial
defeat for the Crown Office. It had tried to seize UKP715,000 from Alexander
Donnelly, a heroin trafficker, but the court set a lower figure of
UKP270,000. Donnelly lost an appeal this month to reduce the sum further,
but he was released from prison two weeks ago and is now free to enjoy his
wealth - UKP3m, according to our sources.

The UKP270,000 forfeited by Donnelly is the Scottish record, but is likely
to be exceeded by an order pending against David Santini, 32, who is serving
13 years for drug dealing. Once his appeal process has been exhausted, he
will face a UKP500,000 confiscation order. He can easily afford it: he is No
2 on the Underworld Rich List with assets of UKP5m.

James Hamill, 39, a bootlegger turned heroin dealer serving 18 years, is
also likely to be hit with an order of UKP500,000. But Hamill made millions
from illegal activities before turning to heroin.

Our inquiries have established that most confiscation orders are made for no
more than 10% of a criminal's identified wealth, but the figure can be as
low as 2%.

ENTRY to The Sunday Times Rich List of Britain's 1,000 wealthiest people,
published last month, required a fortune of UKP21m. To make it into
Scotland's top 100, UKP15m was the threshold. None of those in the
Underworld Rich List is that rich yet. But it seems just a matter of time,
at least for McGraw. Even with the loss of UKP500,000 to customs and the
Irish authorities, we estimate his wealth at about UKP10m. He is top of the

Police and customs investigators are careful not to be critical of
government policy over asset seizures. Yet there

is evident disquiet at the inadequacy of a procedure that fails to inflict
significant damage on career criminals.

Strathclyde police, Scotland's biggest force, has welcomed government
proposals to adopt the tough confiscation powers wielded by the Irish
criminal assets bureau. One senior customs investigator said: "We have to
jump through hoops to invoke our powers and then see that they barely affect
the lifestyle of the criminal and his family. It's sickening. I think
adopting the Irish methods can't come quickly enough."

McGraw, a former housebreaker and ice cream salesman, would disagree. He
lives in a substantial villa in Mount Vernon, Glasgow, worth about
UKP400,000, and also has homes in Spain and the Canary Islands. He has
substantial business interests in Scotland and Ireland, mainly in pubs and
taxis, both cash businesses, ideal for laundering illicit money.

Roderick McLean, the only member of the top 10 who lives in Edinburgh, is
also abundantly wealthy, with a property portfolio worth more than UKP2m.

He has development land at South Queensferry and a number of luxury boats
and yachts, all of them bought with cash. He also has luxury cars and shares
in a number of Edinburgh businesses.

Donnelly has settled back into his former lifestyle, his sentence served -
with the help of four properties in Glasgow, a house in Florida, the family
home at Balmore, a garage, a fleet of private hire cars and laundrettes.

One police source said: "Can it be right that a man who dealt in heroin and
wrecked lives is not only free three years after being convicted, but
reclining in a mansion sipping champagne with a fleet of cars at his

Scotland's underworld Rich List:

* Thomas McGraw

UKP10m 1st

Asset seizures: None in Scotland; pub in Donegal and

UKP180,000 by Irish authorities; UKP209,000 cash by British customs.

Scotland's only genuine Mr Big. Thrived after death of Arthur Thompson in
1993. 'Legitimate' business empire founded in 1980s on ice-cream vans. Three
homes worth more than UKP1m. Substantial interests in bars and taxi firms.
Cash rich, overseas investments

* David Santini

UKP5m 2nd

Asset seizures: Pending

Sentenced to 13 years in 1997 for drug dealing. Assets being assessed. Faces
seizure order for UKP500,000, a Scottish record after appeal against
conviction heard. Large detached house, two BMWs, lavish lifestyle. From
North Lanarkshire, believed to have interests in restaurants and pubs. Scale
of drugs operation points to considerable, undisclosed wealth

* Mr X

UKP5m plus 3rd

Asset seizures: None

Mr X and his partner Mr Y cannot be named because they are about to be tried
for huge drug smuggling operation. Mr X of Glasgow stored money in safety
deposit boxes in stores including Harrods. Operated from UKP1,000-a-night
suite in London hotel. Assets include UKP250,000 yacht and UKP50,000 car.
Assets seizure may follow guilty verdict

* Mr Y

UKP5m 4th

Asset seizures: None

Mr X's junior partner. Lived at one of London's most fashionable addresses
and jetted around the world with model girlfriend. Owned number of luxury
cars and motorbikes and always paid in cash. Like Mr X, is

believed to have secreted millions of pounds in secure locations. From
Glasgow. Assets seizure may follow guilty verdict

* Roderick McLean

UKP4.5m 5th

Asset seizures: UKP100,000

Only criminal from Edinburgh in top 10. Serving 21 years for cannabis
smuggling. Assets: two houses in capital worth UKP1m, four other properties,
development land at South Queensferry, six boats and yachts, executive cars,
and business stakes. Revenue from drug dealing before capture estimated at
UKP2.5m. Paid UKP100,000 confiscation order

* James Hamill

UKP4m 6th

Asset seizures: Pending

Sentenced to 18 years in 1997 for flooding northeast Scotland with top-grade
heroin. Owns family home in Rutherglen, at least two flats, three cars.
Confessed to bootleg alcohol and cigarette import operation but denied drug
dealing. Shareholder in Celtic. Appeal pending but can expect asset seizure
in its wake

* Alexander Donnelly

UKP3m 7th

Asset seizures: UKP270,000

Largest confiscation order to date. Crown had sought UKP715,000. Sentenced
to four years and nine months in 1996 for trafficking heroin. Freed two
weeks ago. From Balmore, north of Glasgow. Three properties in Glasgow in
wife's name, one in Rutherglen in brother's name, and family home. House in

* John Healy

UKP2.5m 8th

Asset seizures: Pending

McGraw's brother-in-law and right-hand man (see top of list). Sentenced to
10 years last July for drug smuggling. Owns numerous business premises and
shops around Glasgow as well as pub. Has stake in many of McGraw's
businesses. Expected to face confiscation order in region of UKP300,000

* Thomas Porter

UKP1.5m 9th

Asset valuation: UKP1.5m

Asset seizures: Pending

>From Kilwinning in Ayrshire. Sentenced to 14 years in 1997 for cannabis
smuggling in UKP2m deal. Appealing against conviction and sentence so
confiscation order still pending. Family home worth more than UKP100,000 and
owns at least three cars, but no apparent interests in legitimate businesses

* John McCarthy

UKP1m plus 10th

Asset seizures: UKP25,000

Biggest catch in Operation Caesar. Sentenced to eight years last November.
Had modest lifestyle with prostitute girlfriend, but kept cash in safe
houses. Only one found so far: UKP25,000. Drugs business made UKP14m- UKP18m
a year, though not known for how long. No confiscation expected unless
authorities find caches.

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