Judge labels defendant ‘drug lord’ and orders £2m home recoverable under 2002 Proceeds of Crime Act

Ref. Serious Organised Crime Agency v Aaron Charlton Coghlan and Claire Lisa Burgoyne [2012]EWHC 429

After escaping prosecution in the trials for three brutal murders, one of which took place in his own home, suspected ‘drug baron’ Aaron Charlton Coghlan has finally been punished for his crimes. Mr Justice Simon ruled that Coghlan’s converted chapel home in Alderley Edge, Cheshire, is recoverable by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), who have been on his tail for years, under the terms of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

The home, a beautifully restored chapel, is valued at between 1 and 2 million pounds, depending on which source you believe, and was deemed to have been purchased from ill gotten gains. During the periods 1997/98 and 2003/2004, Mr Coghlan had no declared income, but continued to live in his expensive home. He currently drives a Bentley turbo.

The Judge commented that ‘drug dealing can be inferred from his lifestyle and the lack of any alternative source of income.’

The Proceeds of Income Act 2002 Section 266 states that the court may make a recovery order when the property is deemed to be recoverable, which must vest the recovered property in the trustee (in this case the Serious Organised Crime Agency) for civil recovery.

The house was, in fact, jointly owned by Coghlan and his partner Claire Burgoyne, but the Judge deemed the property to have been recoverable before it was registered in her name.

The ruling sees the first significant evidence of progress against one of Britain’s allegedly most prolific criminals. Coghlan was cleared in 1996 of murdering drug baron Chris Little, after informing the jury that he was playing computer games at the time of the killing.

He was then cleared of kidnapping and killing David Bradshaw in 2002, who was forced to drink petrol and was burned alive in the boot of a car. Reports indicate that the police failed to pass on information about another possible suspect.

In 2010, Coghlan was then cleared of killing Stephen Akinyemi in his own mansion after the prosecution could not prove that Coghlan hadn’t acted in self defence.

Even then, in 2011 Coghlan was again arrested over allegations he was behind a drug smuggling ring and a plot to bring large amounts of cocaine into the UK. A lack of evidence led to his release.

A 16 year saga of arrest and release has finally been broken therefore, with news of this property recovery order. A senior police officer also commented:

“Police are still investigating his affairs and further charges against him may be forthcoming in the future.”

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