Ice cream van man stripped of £1m makes bid for frozen assets
An ice cream man has been stripped of almost £1m for selling smuggled cigarettes out of his poke vans.
A court order took £900,000 worth of property off Belfast man Stephen Baxter and his wife Denise.
But they have asked the Assets Recovery Agency if they can buy back their £8,400 collection of crystal - from a brand famous for its Tinkerbell items - and their four-wheel drive vehicle.
The ARA has been also been allowed to seize four houses, two apartments, and cash from bank accounts belonging to the couple.
A fleet of four ice cream vans is also to be sold off, with the cash raised ploughed back into battling crime.
The Baxters, of Lyndhurst View Park in the city, agreed to the settlement following a three-year investigation by the agency.
ARA chiefs claimed their wealth was amassed from the proceeds of illegal street trading from Mr Baxter's vans.
They also showed he had been detected by police and HM Revenue and Customs selling smuggled tobacco out of the vehicles.
His lifestyle and property acquisitions appeared to far outstrip any known lawful income, it was claimed.
After the High Court in Belfast granted the consent order to recover the assets, ARA interim director Alan McQuillan expressed delight at reaching the settlement.
He said: "We had shown that Mr Baxter had made a significant income from illegal trading and the peddling of contraband cigarettes.
"The minimum we will recover from this settlement is £900,000. The money will be recovered and recycled into the fight against crime."
As part of the settlement the Baxters agreed to settle all the agency's civil recovery and tax claims.
They have retained the family home at Lyndhurst View Park and associated mortgage, some personal jewellery and £10,000 in cash.
But the recoverable assets include:
- Apartments at Hawthorn Building, Old Baker's Court, and The Tannery, Castle Street, both Belfast;
- Two properties at Health Lodge and another two at Charleville Square, both Belfast;
- The proceeds of the sale of the fleet of four ice cream vans;
- A Mitsubishi Shogun;
- A Swarovski and Arribas crystal collection valued at £8,400;
- Cash and interest in six bank accounts, a credit union account and shares; and
- The deposit on a property at the Obel Building in Belfast.
The Baxters have also agreed to personally meet their own legal costs of £35,566,88 and any other associated costs.
The final amount recoverable will depend on the prices the properties fetch when sold and any existing mortgage liabilities.
ARA stressed any legal tenants of the properties belonging to the Baxters are not connected to the criminality in this case.