Pay £6m - or face seven years’ jail

Kirk Claus

Kirk Claus

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A rogue car dealer from Cragg Vale has been told to pay back more than £6 million or face seven years in jail.

Kirk Claus, 47, of Slate Delf Farm, who was jailed for three years in 2012 after being convicted of conspiring to defraud customers and money laundering, must pay back £6,203,025.72 within six months or face an extended period behind bars.

In 2012, Leeds Crown Court heard how Claus and five other men – Craig Firth, 54, of Mossy Bank Close, Queensbury; Peter Wayne Bray, 57, of Division Lane, Blackpool; Michael Barry Adams, 43, of Crag Road, Shipley; David Patrick Kelly, 30, of Bradford Road, Manchester; and Paul Clements, 36, from the Romley area of Greater Manchester – used a premises in Halifax Road, Hipperholme, to defraud thousands of customers. Amongst the various businesses operating from the site was Chequered Flag Car Sales.

They sold unsuspecting customers cars that had been written off by insurance companies, and laughed when people later complained to them about the state of the vehicles.

They also sold vehicles with various disguised faults, such as a sand filled radiator, and sold vehicles with false warranties.

Claus, who was also given nine months in prison for contempt of court after failing to reveal his full assets and is banned from being a company director for five years, is said to have benefited from criminal activity to the tune of £15,530,636.71.

After making the Confiscation Order against Claus at Leeds Crown Court, Judge Guy Kearl QC said: “You have never paid income tax or completed a self assessment.

“You disguised your true identity to conduct business in cash and have done everything possible to thwart the confiscation process.”

Judge Kearl also ordered Claus to pay compensation totalling £44,430.20 to 19 of the victims from the monies confiscated.

Meanwhile, Bray – jailed for two years in 2012 – must pay back £204,242.60 within six months or face a further two and a half years imprisonment.

And in late 2012/ early 2013, Firth – jailed for two years in 2012 – was told he had to pay back £30,058.10 or face a further 15 months imprisonment; Adams – jailed for 12 months in 2012 – was told he had to repay £13,975 or face a further nine months imprisonment; Kelly – jailed for 15 months in 2013 – was told he had to pay back £1; and Clements – jailed for five months in 2013 – was told he had to repay £101,000 or face a further two years imprisonment.

Chequered Flag Cars and Bikes Limited was fined £250,000.

The Confiscation Orders followed an investigation under the Proceeds of Crime Act by the North East Regional Asset Recovery Team and the Yorkshire and Humber Regional Trading Standards Scambuster Team.

The investigation found the total criminal benefit to the six men from their illegal enterprise to be £26,565,449.70.

Lord Toby Harrris, chair of National Trading Standards, said: “These criminals were calculated and heartless and put lives at risk across the country.

“I am delighted to see that having been convicted and imprisoned, they are now being made to pay in cold hard cash for the harm they have caused.”