POWYS County Council (PCC) is expecting a cash windfall under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA).

At a meeting of the economy, communities, residents and communities scrutiny committee, Cllr Jeremy Pugh (Action for Powys – Builth Wells) raised questions about the cost of legal fees in a case where PCC is trying to claim money from criminals under POCA.

Cllr Pugh said: “Does public interest include cost effectiveness?

“We have a case going on where I believe we are over £1 million pounds in costs already.

“It will be brought in front of the courts again and I can’t see that this is going to come to a sweet conclusion.”

Clllr Pugh feared: “We are going to be hundreds and hundreds of thousands of pounds out of pocket,

Clive Jones, professional lead for trading standards, community safety and emergency planning, answered: “The first thing is: we’re under a duty to enforce legislation.

“You look at the evidence and the likelihood of winning the case.

“You don’t make a decision to prosecute with a view of getting your money back.”

“The case you’re talking about is the teeth whitening case.

“And some of the details are wrong.

“We have already won some money back and it’s not cost £1 million.”

Mr Jones continued: “This is a landmark case recognised as a piece of excellence dealing with proven criminality.

“We have taken a criminal gang out for the whole of the UK and £180,000 has already come in under POCA.”

“We will actually get substantially more monies back in that case.

“There’s £2.5 million that was actually proven to be criminal benefit in that case with £1.6 million available.”

The case concerned was called Operation Gleam.

In May 2018 a couple in their seventies and their son, were convicted at Caernarfon Crown Court for selling unsafe teeth whitening products,  and were ordered to pay back £1.6 million

John Barry Hargreaves, his wife Jean and son Matthew Hargreaves from Knutsford, Cheshire were prosecuted by PCC for running a fraudulent business in September 2016.

Between October 2012 and July 2015 they sold the products at events throughout the UK including at the Royal Welsh Show, in Llanelwedd.

The two men were both jailed for 18 months.

Jean Hargreaves was jailed for six months, suspended for two years, after admitting making false claims about the products and supplier businesses.

The POCA case has dragged on since then, with several hearings that have not come to a conclusive decision over awarding the money.

A further hearing is supposed to take place at Liverpool Crown Court in March 2020.