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Hatton Garden thief asked to pay back £5.9m from robbery

Hatton Garden ringleader ‘Basil the Ghost’ must pay back £6million still missing from the £13.6million jewel heist, a court has been told.

Prosecutors say Michael Seed, who disabled the alarm in the robbery, is hiding £5.9million in ‘assets and non-returnable items’ from the raid.

They are pushing for the court to impose a confiscation order on him, meaning the alarm specialist will face more jail time if he fails to pay.

The 59-year-old was jailed for 10 years in March 2019 after becoming the tenth person to be convicted in connection with the 2015 Easter Bank Holiday heist.

He is believed to have let himself into the building in London’s diamond district using a set of keys, before defeating the security system.

Seed was one of two men who climbed into the vault to loot 73 safe deposit boxes after the gang of veteran criminals drilled through a thick concrete wall. 

He evaded capture for three years before police raided his flat in Islington, north London – around two miles from Hatton Garden – in March 2018. 

There police found gold ingots, gems and jewellery worth £143,000 in the bedroom.

It had been suggested that Seed had the jewels because he was as a jeweller.

But prosecutor Philip Evans QC told the confiscation hearing today that : ‘There is simply no supporting evidence of the defendant’s assertion that he was running a jewellery business.’

He said Seed has not declared tax on any earnings, or ‘produced to date a single’ invoice, business receipt, bank transfer or name of a customer or anything that backs up his claim he was running a jewellery business.  

Of the £13.6million in jewels stolen, only around £4.5million has been recovered.

Now the Crown Prosecution Service has brought the confiscation order against Basil to try and recover around a third of the loot. 

During his trial, Seed denied any involvement in the heist. He told jurors he was not the man nicknamed Basil by the rest of the gang.

But he was found guilty of conspiring to burgle, handle stolen goods and convert or transfer criminal property. 

On sentencing him, judge Christopher Kinch QC, said Seed was a central player in the heist. 

His co-conspirators Brian Reader, 80, John ‘Kenny’ Collins, 78, Daniel Jones, 64, and Terry Perkins, who died in prison last year aged 69, were all jailed in 2016.

Detectives believe the gang could have been operating undetected for decades before they were caught, but cannot link them to any other crimes.

Seed travelled abroad three times after he was first photographed meeting Collins by a surveillance team in the weeks after the Hatton Garden burglary, while he was unknown to police. 

The prosecution at his trial suggested Seed, who studied electronics and physics at Nottingham University, may have taken stolen cash to Portugal, where Perkins had a holiday flat on the Algarve. 

Seed was identified by the Flying Squad at the end of November 2015 and further surveillance footage captured him walking around Canary Wharf in April 2016.

But detectives waited until March 2018 to strike, catching Seed red-handed with more than 1,000 items stolen in the Hatton Garden heist.

He is believed to have been melting down gold and breaking up jewellery on his bedroom workbench bit by bit as it was brought in from a bigger stash.

Seed claimed he could have been on a family holiday in Cornwall or visiting his elderly mother in Cambridge at the time of the Hatton Garden raid.

The ‘one who got away’, the mysterious ‘Basil’ from the Hatton Garden gang has been revealed to be a loner electronics boffin who sat on his stolen fortune rather than cash it in.

Michael Seed was vital to the success of the heist as he expertly disabled the alarms at the Hatton Garden vault centre over the Easter weekend in 2015.

Details of his past reveal that Seed, the son of a Cambridge biophysicist, had a very different background to the career criminals he helped carry out the raid.

He was born in 1960 and he did well at school, passing his A levels and went to Nottingham University where he studied physics and electronics at Nottingham University.

But he later drifted into small time drug dealing, landing himself a three year jail sentence in 1984, for supplying a friend with ten LSD pills and a small amount of cannabis.

After he was freed from prison, Seed lived in a hostel for a while before moving into his council flat in Islington, in 1986. He originally paid £13 a week in rent but now pays £105.

Seed told jurors: ‘I was unemployed for a while and then I started fixing TVs and videos – just fixing problems if anyone had a problem with a computer. I have always been good with computers.

‘Before the PC came out you had to go and build your own computer. I have written a few programmes. I started writing software when I was at university.

‘I did not get into jewellery until about the mid-90s. It is purely a thing for making money I have never had much interest in it or liking for it.’

He spent most of his adult life selling jewellery in the ‘black’ economy but also tinkered with electronic gadgetry including mobile phone signal blockers.

Seed claimed he met fellow Hatton Garden gang members Reader, Kenny Collins and Jones while working in Hatton Garden.

Covert recordings showed other members of the gang didn’t understand Seed’s technology, with Danny Jones overheard saying: ‘He can baffle me with b******t.’

His frugal lifestyle was the subject of mockery by fellow gang members who said his portion of the takings would see him through for the rest of his life because he lived in the cheapest ‘gaffs’.

A photograph of his balcony showed a clutter of discarded objects amongst which was a buzzer with a speaker attached he had developed to frighten pigeons away.

Seed accepted he was a hoarder and led a chaotic life which involved weekly bouts of heavy drinking.

He said he could have acquired a BT workman’s jacket – which prosecutors claimed was used to gain access to the sites before the raids from a drinking companion who left it at his flat.

Seed’s biophysicist father John taught himself to degree level before taking a PhD at Christ Church, Cambridge but little else emerged about his family during the trial.

He has a brother and sister who live in Cambridge he is said to have strong ties with.

Seed likes to holiday, staying in a quiet village in Portugal at least once a year, flying with budget airlines out of season when its cheaper and the weather is still good.

Eloquent and witty, he tried to charm the jury with his wit while maintaining he had nothing to do with the raids.

His barrister Richard Sutton, QC, even suggested Basil could be a foreign criminal with link to a £86m diamond vault heist in Antwerp in 2003.

But the jury found Seed and Basil are one of the same. 

The Hatton Garden raid was the ‘swansong’ job of a gang of ageing crooks with dreams of retiring to the Costa del Sol.

The gang drew on experiences from two crimes – the £26million Brink’s Mat gold heist and the £6million Security Express cash robbery.

The gang planned the raid for the long Easter Bank Holiday weekend when they believed they would be free to work uninterrupted after security guards locked up on Thursday night.

Reader travelled to the site by bus using someone else’s Freedom Pass, while Collins transported the rest of the gang, dressed as workmen in high-visibility vests, in a battered white Transit van.

Seed, who had sourced a key to the building’s heavy double wooden doors, let himself in.

He then let his accomplices in through the fire escape where they brought in tools and equipment in wheelie bins along with large metal joists, while Collins acted as lookout from over he road at 25 Hatton Garden. 

They then dropped into the basement, where one of the men forced open the metal shutter before ‘Basil’ dealt with the alarms.

Although they had breached the wall on the first night, they were faced with another problem – the back of the metal cabinet housing the safe deposit boxes, which was bolted to the ceiling and floor. 

Almost ten hours after entering the building, with no success, the gang were forced to call time on their efforts and left for the night.

The failure proved too much for Reader and he quit to the disgust of Perkins, who would later call him ‘an old ponce’ and said: ’12 years I’ve been with him, three four bits of work, f***ed every one of them.’

The gang arrived back at 88-90 Hatton Garden at 10pm the following night and Seed let Jones and Perkins in and the pair enthusiastically got to work battering the metal cabinet to the floor using the recently purchased pump. 

When they finally knocked the cabinet down, Basil and Jones squeezed through the hole and jemmied open as many of the safe deposit boxes as they could. 

When they emerged from the fire escape at 5.44am they had ransacked 73 of the 999 safe deposit boxes, 44 of which were being used by 40 tenants. 

Mysteriously, the burglars left a cassette tape found in one of the boxes of ‘someone confessing to something’ for the authorities to find.

They then made off in their white Transit van, now sitting low on its suspension, with just short of millions in of stolen gold, gems, jewellery and cash hidden in two wheelie bins. 

But the main players were caught out as they boasted of their exploits during a drinking session at the Castle pub in Islington and they were jailed in March 2016.

Brian Reader was given six years while Collins, Terry Perkins, 69, Daniel Jones, 60, and William Lincoln, 63, all got seven years for conspiracy to commit burglary.

They were later ordered to repay £27.5million between them or have their sentences increased.

A week later Perkins died in jail while awaiting trial for his role in another raid. 

The raid inspired the film ‘King of Thieves’, which premiered on September 14, 2018, and starred Michael Caine and Ray Winstone.

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