Brothel millionaire has to repay £4,000

A Jewish man who lived a luxury lifestyle by earning £5 million through a chain of brothels has been ordered to pay back just £4,000, while police will return guns and a ninja knife to him. But his wife must return £250,000, a Manchester court has heard.

Ian Barnett and his wife Michelle, from Prestwich, appeared at Manchester Crown Court on Wednesday. The couple were involved in a prostitution enterprise comprising four brothels across Greater Manchester.

Mr Barnett, 59, was given a three-year jail sentence in 2008 after admitting to keeping brothels while Michelle Barnett, 58, was handed a suspended prison sentence for laundering money from her husband's racket.

The court heard this week that Mr Barnett, who had benefited by £5,085,222 from the business, was broke. The only remaining asset was his Rolls-Royce car, valued at £4,000.

In 1999, Mr Barnett had previously transferred his former £500,000 family home, on Ingledene Avenue in Prestwich, into his wife's name. Police claimed at a previous hearing that it was a strategy used by criminals to protect their assets.

But Judge David Hernandez ruled that the transfer of the property had predated Mr Barnett's illegal activity and could not be included in his confiscation order. But he said Michelle Barnett had benefited by over £200,000 from brothels and a £20,000 Jaguar car from her husband.

He said: "Mr Barnett was the major breadwinner and dictated the finances of the home. Michelle Barnett's lifestyle rested on the income of her husband.

"Half the household expenditure was from their own means, while half the expenditure of the household was from criminal activity," the judge said, ordering Mrs Barnett to pay £250,890. She faces three years' imprisonment if she defaults on the payment.

Appearing alongside the couple was Carole Duncan, who was convicted of managing the brothel chain. She was ordered to pay back £1,230.

After the judgment Mr Barnett requested that a number of licensed guns and a ninja knife, confiscated by police, should be returned. Judge Hernandez agreed, saying the articles had not been involved in any crime.

    Last updated: 2:26pm, February 3 2011