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UK News: Stephen Lawrence suspect gets more jail time over drugs plot profits

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A Stephen Lawrence murder suspect has complained he cannot be moved to an open prison after failing to pay back £90,000 he made from a £3 million drugs plot.

Jamie Acourt, 45, was jailed for nine years at Kingston Crown Court in 2018 after spending more than two years on the run, living in Spain under the alias Simon Alfonzo.

He complained to Westminster Magistrate's Court on Tuesday that he 'can't move to an open prison or anything' due to not paying back the court-ordered amount, adding he was 'happy' for his sentence to be extended instead - although the judge said that would not wipe out his debt.

Acourt had headed a gang which moved resin worth £7.4 million between London and the north east between 2014 and 2016, and admitted involvement in 28 trips which shipped drugs worth up to £5.6 million.

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He was found living in the trendy Diagonal Mar district of Barcelona, until he was finally arrested in May 2018 as he left a gym.

A judge ruled he personally made £500,000 from the scheme and had £90,000 in hidden assets - which he was last January ordered to pay back in ill-gotten gains or face another year added to his jail sentence by a judge at Kingston Crown Court.

Acourt was one of five men arrested over the murder of 18-year-old Stephen, who was stabbed to death in Eltham, south-east London, on April 22 1993.

Acourt appeared at Westminster Magistrates' Court on Tuesday by video-link from Brixton prison over his failure to pay the confiscation order, which has risen to more than £95,000 with interest of £19.73 a day.

The court heard Acourt is due to be released on November 3 but he asked for his default sentence to be activated, meaning he would spend another six months behind bars.

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'I'm happy to take the default sentence because I have no way of paying the money,' he said.

a man standing in front of a crowd: Acourt (pictured above fighting with crowds after a public inquiry into Stephen's death in 1998), appeared at Westminster Magistrates' Court on Tuesday by video-link from Brixton prison over his failure to pay the confiscation order, which has risen to more than £95,000 with interest of £19.73 a day © Provided by Daily Mail Acourt (pictured above fighting with crowds after a public inquiry into Stephen's death in 1998), appeared at Westminster Magistrates' Court on Tuesday by video-link from Brixton prison over his failure to pay the confiscation order, which has risen to more than £95,000 with interest of £19.73 a day a person sitting in a room: Acort, pictured above in Barcelona after being arrested, masterminded the £2.1million racket which saw imported cannabis resin distributed across England.  He is currently serving a nine-year sentence after being convicted in 2018 © Provided by Daily Mail Acort, pictured above in Barcelona after being arrested, masterminded the £2.1million racket which saw imported cannabis resin distributed across England.  He is currently serving a nine-year sentence after being convicted in 2018

The racist murder that shocked the nation

Acourt and his brother were teenagers when Stephen Lawrence was stabbed to death at a bus stop in Eltham, south-east London, in April 1993.

Two of the other suspects, Gary Dobson and David Norris, were convicted of murder in 2012 and jailed for life following a DNA breakthrough.

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But the Acourt brothers have never been convicted.

At the time of Stephen's death, the Acourts described themselves as the Krays, modelling themselves on the brothers who dominated London's criminal underworld in the 1960s.

The gang they were in is believed to have been responsible for a string of violent attacks, invariably featuring knives.

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'In January this was given to me. I can't move to an open prison or anything because of this.'

But District Judge Daniel Sternberg said he would not activate the sentence while Acourt was in prison and explained he had no say in the jail where he is held.

He added: 'Even if you serve the default sentence that does not wipe out the debt you have to pay.

'But it is one of the tools the court has to put some pressure on you to pay.'

The judge said the case will be relisted ahead of Acourt's release date, in October.

His brother Neil Acourt, 46, who was also arrested over Mr Lawrence's murder, was jailed for more than six years over the drugs plot which saw some 750kg of cannabis resin, with an estimated street value of around £3 million moved between London and South Shields, Tyne and Wear.

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Only two of the suspects, Gary Dobson and David Norris, have been brought to justice and were both handed life sentences in 2012 after being found guilty of murder at the Old Bailey.

The fifth suspect, Luke Knight, has remained free.

The drugs plot saw couriers make the 600-mile round trip to South Shields to deliver drugs, collect money, or both - with 34 journeys made over the two-year period.

Once the money was collected, it was handed to Jamie or his brother Neil back in southeast London.

Some of the delivery men were the fathers of their respective partners.

One of the conspirators, Lee Birks, was the father of Jamie Acourt’s partner while another, Jack Vose, was Neil’s father-in-law.

Neil Acourt walked free from prison in March 2019, serving less than half of his six-year sentence for conspiracy to supply Class B drugs.

The brothers have always denied any involvement in the killing of Stephen.

a person posing for the camera: Jamie's brother Neil also ran the drugs gang and was previously jailed © Provided by Daily Mail Jamie's brother Neil also ran the drugs gang and was previously jailed a group of people looking at a cell phone: Neil Acourt after the 1998 public inquiry © Provided by Daily Mail Neil Acourt after the 1998 public inquiry

At the time of Stephen's death, the Acourts described themselves as the Krays, modelling themselves on the brothers who dominated London's criminal underworld in the 1960s.

The gang they were in is believed to have been responsible for a string of violent attacks, invariably featuring knives.

Jamie Acourt, of no fixed address and formerly of The Drive, Bexley, had admitted conspiracy to supply cannabis.

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