A FORMER nightclub boss will be stripped of £1.6m he made from a holiday homes scam perpetrated after he skipped a trial on drugs charges and fled to northern Cyprus.
Justice finally caught up with South Shields-born Gary John Robb after the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) intercepted the cash on its way to Thailand.
And that money is now safely in the hands of the authorities after the High Court ruling, and could be used to compensate victims, some of whom shelled out their life savings for homes in northern Cyprus which were never even built.
Robb skipped bail during his 1997 Teesside Crown Court trial on a charge of allowing club premises to be used for supplying drugs, and made off to northern Cyprus, a state which has no extradition treaty with the UK.
There, as a fugitive from British justice he set up Aga Developments Ltd (AGA) and embarked on two large-scale holiday home development projects.
One of them was completed, although it drew a high number of complaints, but the larger one – known as Amaranto Valley –never got off the ground. Only one house out of a planned 250 was ever built, and had to be completed by the disgruntled buyer.
Robb was returned to the UK in 2009, and in July 2010, was given a five years’ jail after admitting drugs offences. After completing his sentence, he was immediately extradited to the Greek-controlled Republic of Cyprus.
There, he was given another 10 months behind bars for illegal use of what the Greek part of the island considers to be stolen land. He is still serving that sentence in a Nicosia jail.
Soca took Robb to the High Court in London, saying the seized cash was the proceeds of crime.
Robb, who has invested heavily in Thailand, and has a girlfriend and child there, argued the developments were legitimate and the money clean, but Mr Justice Mackay opened the way for Soca to seize it all.
The judge said the cash transfer was “nothing more or less than a money laundering exercise”, adding: “On the balance of probability, I reach the conclusion that Robb is indeed a man with a propensity to use dishonest means for gain.
“The actions of Robb from February 2005 can compendiously be described as fraud.”
The judge accepted there was “every reason to be suspicious” about the development projects, but stopped short of finding that they were fraudulent from the outset.
He ruled that the £1.6m now standing in a London bank account is “recoverable property” under the Proceeds of Crime Act, opening the way for victims to lodge claims with Soca for at least part of their money back.