Eddie Maher pleads guilty to theft of £1.2m


Chris McCann, head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) East of England Complex Casework Unit said: "This case proves that however old your crime, you can be caught and we will prepare a compelling prosecution case against you. You will be brought to justice and sent to prison.

"Cases of this age dating back 20 years are rare and bring with them special problems:  some of the witnesses, for example, had unfortunately died in the intervening years. 

 "Members of the public might think that it is just a question of dusting off a file of evidence kept on a shelf from the 1990s and you're ready to go to court to prove Eddie Maher's guilt. But that is far from reality.

 "Eddie Maher was not interviewed by police before he went on the run. At that time in 1993, police did not need to refer cases to the CPS for advice on whether to charge and the police then preferred charges. This meant that when Maher came back into this country, he could not be interviewed by the police and he had a blank sheet of paper when it came to his defence.

 "The prosecution had no idea what his defence might be for some time, which tied our hands in preparing the case. When we received his defence statement the real issue came to light: Maher claimed he was acting under duress.

 "Together with the police, we had to look at whether this was true and if it was, whether a prosecution should go ahead in the public interest, regardless of the years that had elapsed.

 "The East of England Complex Casework Unit advised the police on the evidence we would need to counter this defence. With this evidence, we were satisfied that we could show Maher did not act under duress.

 "A man under fear of violence who takes part in the theft of £1,172,5000 receives a small cut for the part he played and the principal players keep the bulk of the money. We knew he had bought a house in the US for $120,000 cash, furnished it, later bought 80 acres of land and did not work for some time. The pictures of the homes and cars Maher bought with cash did not belong to a minor player acting under duress.

 "We also had evidence of Maher's bad character. We could show this man was a career criminal who lied on job applications and failed to disclose previous convictions; repeatedly ran up debts in rented property moving on before the bailiffs arrived and obtained credit and other benefits by using false details. 

 "Thanks to the teamwork between East of England CPS and Suffolk Police, Maher changed his plea to guilty and today was sentenced to five years' imprisonment.

 "Eddie Maher is not like those fictional criminals with hearts of gold who steal for a good cause and give the money away. He made a careful plan to breach the trust of his employers, stole a large amount of their money and spent it himself. With his guilty plea today he has admitted that he callously stole £1.2million purely for his own gain."