Thomas Maher. Photo: UK National Crime Agency.

Local haulier who moved drugs must pay £630k

A former haulage firm owner from Clara, Co Offaly, who was jailed for moving drugs and dirty cash across Europe has been ordered to pay back £630,000.

Thomas Maher, aged 42, of Wiltshire Close, Warrington, was sentenced to 14 years and eight months in prison in December 2020. Evidence obtained by the National Crime Agency as part of Operation Venetic – the UK law enforcement response to the takedown of encrypted global communications service EncroChat – showed that he operated a transportation network spanning Europe, moving drugs into the UK and Ireland and the profits in the other direction.

In one exchange of messages with a criminal associate he bragged that he had been involved in organised crime for more than 20 years.

On Monday, a judge at Liverpool Crown Court made a confiscation order for £629,159.15, including his house in Warrington, cars, lorries, jewellery, a number of high value watches, artwork and gold ingots bought in Dubai. He has three months to pay or faces an extra six years in jail.

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.”

Thomas Maher came onto the NCA’s radar after he was arrested as part of the investigation into the deaths of 39 Vietnamese migrants in a lorry in Purfleet in October 2019.

The tractor unit involved had at one point been owned by Maher, and was still registered in his wife’s name even after it was sold.

Maher was released with no further action taken by Essex Police, but an NCA financial investigation revealed that despite him and his wife being on less than minimum wage for tax purposes, they lived a luxurious lifestyle.

During a seven month surveillance operation NCA officers watched Maher meet with criminal associates at hotels and in public spaces in the North West to organise the trafficking of cocaine from the Netherlands to the UK and Ireland.

As well as drugs, Maher also helped to facilitate the movement of large sums of cash, charging a commission for his involvement.

NCA officers arrested Maher on 13 June 2020 at his home in Warrington, after receiving intelligence that he planned to leave the country.

He was sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court in December 2020 after pleading guilty to importing class A drugs and money laundering.