Wayne Rooney's boots and Diego Maradona's shirt go under Co Antrim company's hammer
A Co Antrim auction company is playing host to what's been dubbed the "sale of the century" of a notorious English conman's massive collection of jewels and sports memorabilia, including Wayne Rooney's boots and a signed Maradona shirt.
The Aladdin's cave of hundreds of sporting treasures – expected to fetch at least a quarter-of-a-million pounds – were seized from Birmingham career criminal Thomas Scragg after he was convicted of one of the UK's biggest tax scams three years ago
Scragg (57), jailed for 17 years, had spent a fortune which he amassed from his life of crime on sporting mementoes.
His collection includes the boots which Rooney wore in the 2007 FA Cup Final, as well as England and Ronaldo jerseys and a Manchester United shirt from the 1963 cup final signed by the club's 'holy trinity' of George Best, Bobby Charlton and Denis Law.
Scragg, who had snooker player Jimmy White as his best man at his wedding, also splashed out thousands of pounds on signed photographs of Pele and boxing icon Muhammad Ali.
The conman liked to be photographed with the rich and famous from the sporting world, people like Rio Ferdinand and Ryan Giggs of Manchester United.
His prized haul, nicknamed 'Scragg's swag', will go under the hammer at Wilson's auctions at Mallusk a week from today.
And the sale is expected to attract hundreds of bidders to Co Antrim and to a special online site.
Wilson's group operations director Peter Johnston, who will conduct the auction, explained: "We work nationally with police forces and a number of agencies including HRMC, the National Crime Agency and Border Force.
"And we dispose of everything that gets seized – proceeds of crime, money laundering and that sort of thing."
The hundreds of lots for the auction – including thousands of pounds worth of jewellery and gold watches – will be arriving in Northern Ireland later today and tomorrow.
Wilson's has a number of operations in England but it decided to hold the Scragg sale in Northern Ireland.
Mr Johnston added: "If there is anything contentious about any auctions we generally take them out of that area."
In the past Wilson's has conducted a number of other major auctions for police forces in England where luxury cars including Lamborghinis and Ferraris were on offer.
At one recent Mallusk auction more than 1,000 people turned up.
Scragg spent £14m living the high life in five-star London hotels and restaurants and bought himself a fleet of top-of-the-range cars
His company, Moya Payroll, managed the wages of construction firm employees and siphoned off £26m in unpaid tax for five years up to 2007. Workers would be paid in cash without deductions for tax before an investigation by West Midlands Police stopped Scragg in his tracks.
Police also uncovered another £8m in stolen PAYE tax.
After Scragg's business empire fell apart, 12 of his co-conspirators who helped in his fraud were convicted of laundering the cash for him.
The money raised in next Wednesday's auction will go back to the Government.