Peter Walsh, Crime correspondent
Monday, February 4, 2013
A Norfolk couple who jetted off to Kenya to dish out money made from their cannabis factory to villagers and charities face losing their holiday home to pay some of the money back.
Michael Foster, 62, and Susan Cooper, 63, who lived in Norwich, pocketed hundreds of thousands of pounds during the sophisticated six year operation - but used much of the £400,000 of their ill-gotten money to help locals in the Kenyan village where they were regular visitors.
Described in court as the “most unusual cannabis growing case of its type” - the couple paid for life-saving surgery, bought computers for a local eye hospital and secured schooling for poor children.
But they were living a double life, selling kilos of cannabis, grown at their farmhouse in Little Sutton, Lincs, and another site in Terrington St Clement, to a drugs baron.
The couple were jailed for three years each in October after they were caught after a police raid at Home House Farm, Little Sutton, in June 2010.
The couple moved to Garrett Court off Sprowston Road in Norwich while police investigated the finances and operation of the cannabis farm.
After the couple’s incredible six year double life was exposed investigators examined their finances to see if any assets could be seized.
A proceeds of crime hearing at Lincoln Crown Court was told on Friday the couple made a benefit of £300,000 from their crimes but that Foster had no realizable assets.
The court heard Cooper had realizable assets of £59,006 which included £20,000 in cash found when police raided Home House Farm in Little Sutton where the couple were living.
Cooper’s remaining assets are made up of her half share in a holiday home located on Kenya’s Diani Beach, near Mombasa, valued at £39,006.
Recorder Nigel Daly told Cooper that unless the full figure of £59,006 was confiscated from her by 1 August she would face an extra prison sentence of 20 months in default.
Foster was given 28 days to pay back the nominal sum of just £1 or face one day extra in custody.
Chris Milligan, mitigating for Cooper, told the hearing Cooper was likely to remain in custody until December and may face problems selling her stake in the Kenyan property.
The couple had been completely “off the police radar” when a beat officer chasing a burglar near their picture postcard home in Bridge Road, Little Sutton, noticed a distinctive cannabis smell coming from the property.
When the officer knocked on the farmhouse door Mrs Cooper answered. She replied “Yes I do” when the officer asked if she knew why he was there.
Inside police found 159 cannabis plants with an estimated street value of around £20,000. Two of the buildings had been converted into a growing room and drying room. Officers also recovered £20,000 in £1,000 bundles from a carrier bag.
The couple, formerly of Home House Farm, Little Sutton, Lincs, admitted four charges of producing cannabis and a single offence of possessing criminal cash between March 2004 and June 2010.