Breweries share £1.2m payout over large-scale theft of beer kegs

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More than £1.2 million has been paid to breweries in compensation following a large-scale theft of their beer kegs, it has been revealed.

A total of £1,250,000 was handed over to several breweries after a stolen beer barrel racket was smashed by police in 2009.

The scam involved more than 90,000 empty metal kegs, each worth about £65, being siphoned off for scrap for as little as £5 a time instead of being returned to the breweries to be refilled.

The money paid to the breweries in a civil settlement came from M&S Alloys in West Bromwich, which handed over £250,000, and international firm Cronimet Ltd, the majority shareholder of M&S Alloys, which has a branch in Cannock.

The figure was revealed during a hearing at Wolverhampton Crown Court in which barristers were arguing whether three of those involved in the scheme should have any of their own cash confiscated.

Anthony Geeling, David Fellows and Ian Lewis were all jailed for four years in February 2012 after being convicted of conspiracy to steal, but are currently out on licence. Geeling and Fellows were both directors of M&S Alloys. The men may now be subject to a Proceeds of Crime hearing, which is designed to deprive offenders of any monetary benefit they received from their crimes. During the hearing, prosecution barrister Mr Nicholas Smith said each defendant benefited by £240,000 each and should lose some of their own cash as the compensation was paid by the companies.

He said: "These individuals benefited from their crimes, they should therefore have confiscation proceedings brought." But Mr Andrew Jackson, representing Lewis, claimed it would be 'disproportionate' to do so as compensation has already been paid.

Mr Benjamin Nicholls, speaking on behalf of Geeling, said: "The kegs were paid for out of the M&S bank account. They were then sold to Cronimet and Cronimet paid not Mr Geeling and Mr Fellows but M&S. So although it was Mr Geeling and Fellows who were physically acquiring the stolen kegs, the entire financial transactions were conducted by M&S."

Mr Edmund Vickers, representing Fellows, added: "In this case there's no evidence that Messrs Geeling and Fellows have retained any benefit, because it was the transactions conducted by M&S Ltd that caused the loss in the first place."

A decision is expected to be made late next week. Lewis, 47, and from Sunnymead in Clent, was arrested after an investigator visited his business Lewis Baling Services while searching for a missing load of 400 barrels. Geeling, aged 64, from Bellmead in Studley, Warwickshire, who is a director of M&S Alloys, was also arrested at the scene. He and colleague Fellows, 60, from Belbroughton Road, Blakedown, had stolen about 78,000 empty beer kegs that were crushed in less than two years.

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