The truism that honesty is its own reward will come as little comfort to a scrupulous builder who will go without a penny after handing in to police nearly £18,000 that he found stashed in a fire-damaged flat that he was renovating.
The builder found the hoard of £20 notes, neatly packaged into £1,000 bundles, in a metal box in the burnt-out property in Leicester which had been empty for six months. The High Court noted: “He is an honest man. He took the find, as any honest person would, to the police.”
Forensic analysis of the notes proved inconclusive, although minute traces of cocaine contamination were found. However, Leicestershire Police sought and obtained a forfeiture order from local magistrates under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. That order was subsequently confirmed by the Crown Court.
In dismissing the builder’s appeal, the High Court found that the money was probably obtained by ‘unlawful criminal conduct of an unidentifiable kind’ and was thus subject to forfeiture. The careful sorting of the money into bundles of one denomination, as well as its concealment and the absence of anyone claiming ownership, indicated that it was ‘unlikely to be the profits of legitimate cash trading’.