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Notorious fraudster living with family in Spain after prison release, court told

A notorious British fraudster who was jailed in the UK after conning an ex-girlfriend out of £300,000 has been released from a Spanish prison and is living with his family in Spain, a court has heard.

Mark Acklom was extradited to Spain in 2021 after being freed from a near six-year sentence imposed in England in 2019.

But a UK court has been told that the 50-year-old is now living with his family in Spain after serving a further two years’ imprisonment in the country.

No details were revealed of his exact whereabouts, although he does have a wife and two children living in Spain and, in the future, may gain Spanish citizenship.

Mark Acklom was jailed in the UK in 2019 before being extradited to Spain (Avon and Somerset Police/PA)
Mark Acklom was jailed in the UK in 2019 before being extradited to Spain (Avon and Somerset Police/PA)

Martin Sharpe, representing Acklom, told a Proceeds of Crime Act (Poca) hearing at Bristol Magistrates’ Court that his client was not actively taking part in proceedings.

“Although Mr Acklom is not observing he is available on the phone to provide instructions. He is just not watching,” Mr Sharpe said.

Referring to his release from prison, the barrister said: “Earlier in the year, I am not sure of the precise date, last year, early summer.

“He has family there (in Spain).”

Bristol Magistrates Court stock
Prosecutors at Bristol Magistrates Court have been using Poca legislation to try to recover the money stolen from Mark Acklom’s ex-girlfriend (Steve Parsons/PA)

The serial conman had fled Spain in 2016, midway through a three-year fraud sentence, after being given temporary release while he applied for parole.

He was already wanted by Avon and Somerset Police for scamming his then-girlfriend, Carolyn Woods, out of her life savings in a romance fraud that began in 2012.

The fugitive was later tracked down to Switzerland and extradited back to Britain in 2019, where he was jailed for five years and eight months.

Since then, prosecutors have been using the Poca legislation to try to recover the money stolen from Ms Woods.

Over the last five years, there have been a series of hearings to establish Acklom’s criminal benefit and available assets.

A two-day hearing was being held in Bristol for Acklom’s lawyers to argue there had been an abuse of process in the Poca hearings due to a lack of disclosure.

“The principle submission is that there has been an abuse of process in these proceedings because there has not been full and fair disclosure and that has not abled us to bottom out issues we need to oppose this application for confiscation,” Mr Sharpe told the court.

John Hardy KC, representing the Crown, said in response: “While we don’t object in any way to him making this application, we say it falls at the first hurdle because it has already been pre-determined.

Mark Acklom at Inner London Crown Court
Mark Acklom was given a four-year sentence in 1991 for a £466,000 mortgage fraud after posing as a City stockbroker (Mike Stephens/PA)

“It was determined in Your Honour’s ruling of February 2 2021.

“We say on a proper analysis what the defence is endeavouring to do is relitigate this issue.

“We say the principle of finality would apply and unless something significantly or indeed dramatically causes the court to revisit its rulings on issues made earlier.”

Judge Martin Picton, who had originally jailed Acklom nearly five years ago, said the prosecution “only had a duty” to disclose material that would “either undermine the prosecution position or assist the defence position”.

He went on: “The days when the defence were given the keys to the warehouse and go through every single piece of paper the prosecution ever generated looking for stuff went out a very long time ago.

“It isn’t how it works.”

Mr Sharpe told the court: “We say in a complicated case like this where there are a lot of ancillary matters identified, it is the keys to the warehouse approach that should be adopted.”

The judge replied: “I just don’t see that is a tenable argument.

“You have to proceed, and I have to proceed on the basis you have highlighted an issue where there is potentially relevant disclosure and you are told there is nothing to disclose, then there is nothing to disclose, as we expect people to engage in the criminal justice process in an honest, conscientious and fair-minded way.

“Unless it is demonstrated that someone hasn’t, that is the basis I proceed.”

The court heard UK financial investigators had concluded Acklom had available funds of almost £262,000.

Meanwhile, the Spanish authorities have made confiscation orders against Acklom valued at 374,000 euro (£321,000) over the crimes he committed in Spain.

“This includes a contribution to his legal fees and payment of the other side, as well as interest on the debt and interest on those two amounts as well,” Mr Sharpe said.

The court heard this could potentially reduce the amount of money Acklom has available to meet his financial liabilities in the UK.

During his relationship with Ms Woods, Acklom posed as a Swiss banker and MI6 agent to “destroy” her life.

He claimed he was friends with celebrities including Nicky Clarke and Chris Evans, had spoken to Hillary Clinton and knew fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, and was involved with secret MI6 missions.

In 1991, Acklom, then aged 16, was given a four-year custodial sentence for a £466,000 mortgage fraud after posing as a City stockbroker.

He also spent £11,000 after stealing his father’s credit card, swindled a former teacher out of £13,000, and ran up a £34,000 bill with a private charter jet company.

The hearing was adjourned until Tuesday.