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£2m penalty for crooked waste boss

The owner of a scrapyard and recycling business faces an eight-year jail term if he fails to pay almost £2m owed under a proceeds of crime order.

The hearing at which the order was made was in July but is only now being reported by the Environment Agency (EA) because the operator, Lee Hazel, challenged the amount and successfully reduced his bill from £2.74m to £1.99m.

The final total remains one of the biggest orders of its kind. In July 2016, Terence Dugbo was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison for WEEE fraud and the judge backed a Proceeds of Crime claim from the EA for £2.2m. In August 2017, MRW reported that two company directors had to pay a total of £1.1m between them.

At Swindon Crown Court in February 2016, Hazel was given an 18-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, for running Melksham Metals Recycling as an illegal waste operation.

Melksham scrapyard

Melksham scrapyard

At earlier hearings, he had been convicted of four charges in relation to the dumping of waste at a farm and admitted further five charges concerning unauthorised activities at his own premises, pictured. Read the MRW court report from 2016 here.

In July 2017, the court made a confiscation order under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 for £2.74m, but this figure was reduced this month under a legal clause known as the ‘slip rule’.

Hazel’s lawyers successfully argued that it had been wrong to include a figure for VAT when calculating how much their client had benefited from crime. They also alleged that the EA had mistakenly included invoices for ferrous metals.

An EA spokesperson said: “These were serious offences committed by a waste operator who has little respect for the law and the environment. He was motivated by financial gain and carried out unauthorised activities over a number of years.

“This case should serve as a warning to anyone in the waste industry who thinks they can flout the law.”

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