A property developer from Orpington has agreed to hand over nearly £2 million in cash and London properties after a court heard how he funded his £17 million empire through yeas of crime.

Richard Leahy, 56, owns 43 homes or commercial premises across south London and Kent, but was alleged by the National Crime Agency (NCA) to have been involved in criminal activity for more than 15 years.

This included cannabis cultivation, mortgage fraud, benefit fraud, money laundering and tax evasion.

The London property baron claimed that his purchases were made legitimately and that some of them were made using gifts and loans from friends and family.

In 2017, the NCA secured a property freezing order from the High Court, and a claim for 'civil recovery' of criminal funds was lodged in November 2018.

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Mr Leahy denied and appealed, and spent more than £500,000 fighting the case, but has now agreed to hand over nearly £2 million in assets to settle the recovery claim.

The 56-year-old, from Orpington, came to a settlement agreement, which saw three properties and £1,125,340 in cash in a bank account handed over law enforcement.

Officials said that this represented around half of Leahy’s wealth because despite his extensive property empire built up over 20 years much of it was still under mortgage, leaving him with only limited equity.

Andy Lewis, Head of civil recovery at the NCA, said: “This is a great result, recovering nearly £2 million that will go back into the public purse and be used to help fight criminal activity.

"Settlements in civil cases offer good value to the tax payer, avoiding often lengthy and costly legal battles while freeing up our investigators and legal team to pursue other casework.”