Mr Clarke was convicted on his guilty pleas of conspiracy to supply cannabis and other offences which were not relevant for confiscation. On the 19th November 2013 he was sentenced by HHJ Woolman to 10 years’ imprisonment. In confiscation proceedings which were heard from the 14th January 2016 to the 7th March 2016, HHJ Woolman ordered that his benefit was £911,592 and that his assets were £548.492.69. The order was therefore for £548.492.69
Mr Clarke was sentenced as the financier and director of a class B conspiracy that lasted some 20 months from the 29th January 2011 to the 27th September 2012. A very important feature of the evidence against Mr Clarke was the product of a listening device (“the probe”) which was placed in his car from the from the 12th June 2012 until the 23rd September 2012, a period of more than 3½ months. It revealed not just his criminality in relation to drugs, but also a complex financial web which the prosecution suggested provided ample evidence of hidden assets. The financial position of Mr Clarke was significantly complicated by his involvement in no fewer than six limited companies, through which the prosecution alleged he laundered a very large amount of money.
The first Prosecutor’s Statement alleged benefit of £3.6m and suggested that an order in the full amount should be made because of hidden assets. Cross-examination of the financial investigator forced him to concede that approximately £2m worth of benefit could be excluded either because of double counting or because it had been demonstrated that some benefit items actually related to others.
Notwithstanding that apparent success, the prosecution readjusted their benefit figures upwards to £5.6m, primarily on account of the operation of company bank accounts and illegal loans and money movements described in additional probe material. It took a huge amount of effort to establish that these companies were in fact both operating properly and not laundering money.
Having reduced the benefit figure to £911,000 from £5.6m, we then persuaded the Judge that there were no hidden assets, meaning that only the assets that Mr Clarke had himself declared were ordered to be confiscated. This was despite the prosecution opening the case saying "It’s perfectly obvious Stephen has a very substantial resource over and above what he has funded through various companies to give himself an aura of legitimacy. You couldn’t get more of a case of hidden assets than this one."