Saturday, March 15, 2008

Real Estate For The Unemployed

I make 40,000 sterling per year, David Patrick Belton told the banker. He secured a mortgage in 2000, and another in 2001, with a lovely tale of gainful employment at a filling station in Belfast.

As it turns out, Mr. Belton was on the dole at the time. Another cheater about to default on his mortgage, you're thinking, and you'll not waste a drop of sympathy for his fate. Nothing of the kind. He paid up regularly, in cash, or with third party checks. Never late, never missed a payment. Not bad for an unemployed gentleman.

The houses in County Louth and County Monaghan are about to be seized by the Criminal Assets Bureau. Even though Mr. Belton paid his bills, he got his money from cross-border fuel laundering, and a man can't launder money in real estate these days.

Diesel for use in farm equipment isn't taxed like motor fuel. Criminal gangs take the modified off-road diesel, clean it to remove elements that mark it as non-road fuel, and then sell it on to filling stations who don't mind getting petrol at a discount. The government, on the other hand, very much minds not getting the taxes due on vehicle fuel.

It's a lucrative business, and Mr. Belton made enough to buy a couple of lovely homes. But he got greedy, and went on the dole to pick up some walking around money. For fifteen years, he received handouts from either the Irish Republic or Northern Ireland, and as a charity case he paid no taxes.

That's the problem with criminal assets. You can't enjoy the fruits of your illegal labors without someone wondering how you were able to afford something and you not even working.

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