Anger over farm fraudster ruling

A MAN who conned over 50 farmers out of £1.2 million has been ordered to pay back just £160,000 by a court.

Thursday, 1st July 2010, 4:11 pm
Updated Friday, 2nd July 2010, 11:29 am

Amid anger from his victims, Neville Hylands was told to repay what was described in Craigavon Crown Court as “the recoverable amount” within six months.

Last night a retired detective constable claimed Hylands, of Moygannon Lane in the Co Armagh village of Donaghcloney, will come out of prison “a very wealthy man”.

In May last year Hylands was convicted of 70 counts of theft, deception and forgery after stealing some 1.2m from farmers through his milk quota dealing business.

An agricultural auctioneer by trade, the 43-year-old was sentenced to four years imprisonment due to an early guilty plea. 500,000 of the money he stole has never been traced.

One victim, farmer Charlie Weir from Waringstown, said last night: “The courts have ordered him to pay 160,000. That is all they reckon he has.

“But I think it is a disgrace he doesn’t have to show where all the money went. It is a disgrace too that this case has rumbled on for almost seven years.”

Mr Weir said he sold his milk quota through Hylands in 2003/2004. The fraudster was to buy Mr Weir 1.83m litres of quota at 10p each with the proceeds of the sale.

But by the time the fraud was uncovered Mr Weir had to buy the quota again at 21p each, giving him a total loss of around 370,000.

He asked if the legal aid bill Hylands incurred over the seven years might not dwarf the 160,000 he was being ordered to repay.

Mr Weir has been advised that he has no further recourse to recover his money.

Retired detective constable Richard Clements worked on the case before retiring two years ago.

“This is a disgrace – a sham,” he told the News Letter last night. “We weren’t allowed to seize farm equipment bought with the stolen money at the time and now it is worthless after seven years of use. He never once answered a question directly, he never volunteered any information to us.

“Around 500,000 is still missing and we could not identify where it went.

“He never accounted for it. He will come out of jail a very wealthy man.

“Fifty-seven individuals are out a terrible lot of money but nobody cares. He has played the system using stolen property.”

Mr Clements said that Hylands used the stolen money to buy farm equipment, build sheds, buy a jeep, a tractor, a house and 25 “finest” Holstein cattle from Germany.

“The farm machinery he bought is of no value now after seven years use and he also ran the cattle down so that veterinary services had to become involved, as he knew he would not be able to sell them.

“I hate to think what his legal aid bill has been over the seven years since he was charged.”

Craigavon Crown Court decided yesterday that Hyland “does not have a criminal lifestyle but has benefited from his particular criminal conduct”.

It ordered that 160,000 was “the recoverable amount” and gave him six months to pay.