A gangster who helped smuggle drugs and dirty cash across Europe has been ordered to hand over part of his ill-gotten gains, including his home and luxury watches, or face an extension to his jail term.
The court ruling marks the nadir for Irishman Thomas Maher, 42, who used a haulage business to cover for the fact that he was a drugs kingpin known as 'The Fat Man' who would rub shoulders with bloodthirsty Colombian drug cartels.
Thomas Maher is currently serving 14 years in prison for using the EncroChat network to ferry drugs from Holland into the UK and Ireland, and he will face six more if he cannot pay back £629,159.15, including his home in Warrington, Cheshire, in three months.
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That same property, relatively modest considering his wealth, had flash cars including a Range Rover and a Corvette on the driveway and was packed with Rolex watches and flashy art made from bullets.
Maher's activity funded a lifestyle that saw him linked to £70,000 spent with holiday provider Tui during four years of trips to Mexico, New York and Dubai, the Liverpool ECHO reported.
The huge wealth on show far surpassed the earnings declared by Maher, triggering a National Crime Agency investigation that would eventually expose him as a linchpin of the underworld.
The 42-year-old, originally from Ireland, was a vital “middle man” who picked locations for lorries to stop and make the drug handovers.
He was originally arrested after 39 dead bodies of Vietnamese nationals were discovered in a lorry in Essex in October 2019.
The dad-of-three was once the owner of that HGV, which was still registered in his wife’s name even after it was sold, but he was released with no further action taken in relation to that shocking tragedy.
However, the activity linked to the investigation – including the search of his Warrington home when he was arrested – drew suspicion to him on a separate level.
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That probe began in October 2019 but the crucial breakthrough came when the NCA obtained material from the hack of EncroChat network where Maher discussed ferrying drugs around Europe.
As well as drugs Maher also helped to facilitate the movement of cash and there was evidence he dealt directly with Colombian cartels as he arranged for their cocaine to be sent across Europe.
Following Monday's confiscation order, the NCA’s Head of Asset Denial, Rob Burgess, said: “This significant result demonstrates the agency’s ability to recover criminal assets, and prevent criminals from benefitting from their wrongdoing.
“Thomas Maher was a career criminal who was trusted by some of Europe’s biggest crime groups to move their drugs and money.
"The confiscation order will ensure money he made will be returned to the public purse to fund further efforts to protect the public from organised crime.”
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