Johal penalty is largest Environment Agency fine ever
The boss of an illegal waste company has been ordered to repay more than £800,000 under the Proceeds of Crime Act (2002) and given a two year community sentence – and warned he faces five years in jail if he doesn’t pay up.
This is the largest Proceeds of Crime Act ruling the Environment Agency has secured to date.
Amrik Johal, 53, of Cheviot Road, Langley, Slough, was convicted on 23 April 2010 after a week long trial for running an illegal waste operation on his land at Colnbrook Bypass, Colnbrook, Slough. The operation was an illegal waste transfer station and scrap metal yard, the running of which had a serious impact on local residents living within ten metres of the site. This included dogs barking and powerful floodlights shining into their homes late at night, and the crushing of cars, which is a very noisy process.
Yesterday (Thursday 4 August) Mr Johal was given a two-year community order at Reading Crown Court at the end of the two-year court saga.
Yesterday’s verdict followed the trial at Bracknell Magistrates’ Court in April 2010, after which the Environment Agency made an application for confiscation of Mr Johal’s assets under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
The matter was referred to the Crown Court and the sentencing of Mr Johal was postponed until the determination of that application.
The confiscation application was determined on 7 July 2011, when Mr Johal was order to pay the sum of £881,513, representing the proceeds of his crime. This sum must be paid within six months of the date of this order – and in default Mr Johal will serve five years imprisonment.
During the trial in April 2010 the court heard that Environment Agency officers visited the site in Slough on numerous occasions between March 2006 and March 2007 and told Mr Johal that he did not have the correct authorisations for the waste activities seen at the site. The court also heard about Mr Johal’s previous convictions for similar illegal waste offences.
During the numerous visits to the site, Environment Agency officers found:
- Skips full of mixed waste including, cardboard, buckets, carpet underlay and wood,
- Piles of mixed wood, metal and other waste on the ground,
- Empty skips branded ‘Johal skip hire’ with the defendants mobile number,
- Skips containing engines, cables and waste electronic equipment, piled at least nine metres high,
- Large piles of other waste across the whole site including tyres, green waste, concrete, and vehicle batteries,
- End of life vehicles were in the process of being de-polluted and crushed by the grab machine,
- Waste skip lorries and container lorries carrying waste onto the site and leaving the site empty.
Environment officers saw a weighbridge on the site, which are used at waste transfer stations to weigh vehicles and their contents. On one occasion they witnessed a car being brought on site and later saw its crushed remains on site. Mr Johal was on site on this occasion and when environment officers questioned him about it, he gave a number of different responses to what had happened to the distinctive red car, but eventually admitted crushing it.
Officers explained in detail the requirements Mr Johal would need to run the site legally.
Mr Johal was interviewed under caution on 20 March 2007 where he denied any involvement in any waste activities on the site. Mr Johal was interviewed separately by Thames Valley Police for other matters and, during this interview, he admitted to running a skip hire and metal recycling business.
Environment Crime Officer Morgan Lound said:
Through the numerous site visits Mr Johal was aware that he was acting illegally. His illegal activities were harmful to the environment, undermined legitimate business and have caused distress to local residents for many years.
We are particularly satisfied with the confiscation order of £881,513, and the threat of five years’ imprisonment if he does not pay, because the Environment Agency wants to make sure that serious waste crime doesn’t pay.
For years Mr Johal has presided over an extensive and unlawful operation that has competed with law-abiding operators who operate from land with planning permission, who pay permit fees for a waste permit and are obliged to put in place expensive infrastructure to protect the environment and measures to protect the neighbours from nuisances such as dust, noise and odour.
The verdict will provide some satisfaction to angry Colnbrook residents who, dissatisfied with officialdom and lack of progress of elected officials, formed an independent campaign and lodged a petition to Slough Borough Council. The Parish Council entertained negotiations with Mr Johal – who had offered to hand over a buffer of land closest to the Village Hall and St. Thomas’ Church in response for supporting the scheme. 82 residents took part in a local referendum of the affected streets in November 2009, 99% voting against the proposal. The result was ignored by Slough Borough Council.
Ironically, the prospect now exists that a new occupier may provide little respite. Last year SBC’s Planning Department accepted Johal’s Planning Application for a large scale purpose-built facility on the site on the tenth attempt last year, seeking to regularise his activity.
See the Environment Agency release for more information.