A convicted drug smuggler was accused of ‘laughing’ at the law last night as he pays back his ill-gotten gains at the rate of just £6 a week.
Tarn Bowler-Degen, 31, was the mastermind of a multi-million pound cannabis trafficking ring spanning the UK, Spain and Morocco.
The university-educated crook was jailed in 2011 for seven-and-a-half years after investigators proved his network supplied at least a tonne of the drug.
Tarn Bowler-Degen, 31, photographed relaxing on a yacht, was the mastermind of a multi-million pound cannabis trafficking ring spanning the UK, Spain and Morocco
In 2013, he was ordered to pay back £172,468 – but incredibly was allowed to repay just £312 a year after his lawyers claimed he was broke.
The extraordinary deal led investigators at the National Crime Agency to appeal for the public’s help in uncovering his suspected hidden assets.
They believe Bowler-Degen, who has been photographed relaxing on a yacht, celebrating in nightclubs and dining out with friends, is still enjoying the profits of his crimes.
In one photograph, the drug trafficker posed on the bow of a boat as it sailed up the Thames near Tower Bridge with the London skyline in the background.
One retired police asset seizure expert said despite some high profile successes the case is not unusual.
The university-educated crook from west London was jailed for seven-and-a-half years
‘If criminals can keep the money overseas, ideally in uncooperative jurisdictions, it can be very difficult to recoup it,’ he said.
‘But when you see the potential profits and the terms of the repayment it’s difficult to imagine this individual is not laughing.’
Bowler-Degen, who is originally from Kensington, west London, was jailed after admitting drug trafficking, money laundering and acquiring criminal property in 2011.
He and three other men were at the centre of a major inquiry into a drug trafficking network spanning the UK and Northern Africa.
Investigators were surprised to discover that Bowler-Degen, who attended Bristol Cathedral School and Exeter University, was the kingpin.
The well-spoken young man, who had no previous convictions, travelled regularly to Spain and Morocco and spent extended periods of time overseas.
He was linked to two brothers who distributed cannabis wholesale across the Midlands and Nottinghamshire and an architecture student whose home was used as a headquarters.
Officials suspect the entire network was responsible for importing more than four tonnes of cannabis, amassing more than £8million in profits.
In one photograph, the drug trafficker posed on the bow of a boat as it sailed up the Thames near Tower Bridge with the London skyline in the background
Nigel Kirby, of the National Crime Agency, said he suspects Bowler-Degan continues to have illicit financial interests.
‘We are very keen to hear from anyone who knows Bowler-Degen and who might be able to help identify any financial or business interests he has,’ he said.
‘Our appeal is backed by a court order designed to hit criminals in the pocket. It doesn’t matter how long it takes, we will keep hunting the assets and money criminals have.’
Bowler-Degan has paid £3,704 so far, but interest at a rate of £36.99 a day has driven the balance up to £218,072.
Even if no interest was added to the claim, it would still take the young businessman almost 700 years to meet his legal obligations.
There was no answer at the £300,000 he shares with his mother Caroline, 60, in Southville, Bristol, yesterday. She works as a boutique holiday planner.
At a hearing at Kingston Crown Court in 2013, Bowler-Degan was ordered to repay £172,468 but the court assessed he could only afford £6 a week.
A year later he was jailed for another 730 days for failing to pay. In prison, he gave his religion as ‘Buddhist’.
The NCA wants to uncover if he has any hidden assets as part of its drive to take back criminal’s illegally earned assets.
In July, it targeted drug trafficker Damien O’Connor, 53, in a bid to claw back the £1.5million he owes the public purse.
His 20 year jail term was increased by 1,974 days when he paid back just £2,900 by the deadline. Police suspect he owns properties in Belgium, Holland and Spain.