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South London council wins POCA order

Words: Laura Edgar
No hiding place: Planners and the Proceeds of Crime Act

Southwark Council has won over £1 million under a Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) order against a landlord who converted three flats into two cramped studios and bedsits.

The council originally won a planning prosecution against Andre Charles Trepel, 74. from Trinec in the Czech Republic, for illegally converting three flats within 2-4 London Bridge Street in 2010.

He was fined and ordered to return the property back to its original condition.

However, investigations by the council’s enforcement in 2015 and 2016 found that little had been done to address the original illegal work and further charges were brought against Trepel in 2017. He was found guilty. To allow the council’s trading standards team to conduct a financial investigation into the profits Trepel had gained from renting the properties, his sentencing was deferred.

Trepel and his company will have to pay back £1,118,601 criminal benefit under the POCA within the next three months or he will face a seven-year prison sentence. He has also been fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £35,000 costs by the Inner London Crown Court for breaching a planning enforcement notice, with a further £1,000 fine from his company – No.1 (London) Ltd.

Victoria Mills, cabinet member for finance, performance and Brexit, said: “I hope this serves as a warning to any disreputable landlord operating in Southwark. This council will not stand by and let our residents live in cramped properties that are harmful to their health and happiness, and we will use every legal measure at our disposal to ensure homes are of a decent standard and landlords do not profit from the misery of their tenants.”

Under the act, most of the money will go to the government, but the council said it would receive around £445,000 to reinvest in enforcement and crime reduction initiatives.

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