John Baptiste
John Baptiste

Fraudster must sell Caribbean home to pay back £320,000

Ex-finance chief told to return half of scam cash

A FINANCE chief who used his trusted position to steal more than £500,000 from the accounts of Camden’s most vulnerable residents has been ordered to give up his second home in the Caribbean.
John Baptiste, 58, appeared at Wood Green Crown Court on Friday when a judge ruled that he must pay back about £320,000.
Most of that money will be realised from a house he had built on the island of Grenada which investigators believe may have been designed as a retirement home.
Police sources are now confident that he has been “wrung out” and that no further assets are hidden.
But they warned that, if Baptiste was to win the Lottery or come into money in future, they would reopen the case files.
The confiscation order accounts for about half of the £620,000 he siphoned from the accounts of elderly and mentally-ill residents whose financial affairs he was supposed to be looking after.
The demand takes into account the three-bedroom house in Grenada and a half-share of his family’s home in Sydenham, south London.
Detective Sergeant Iain Mackichan said: “The house in Grenada was very nice. It didn’t have a swimming pool or anything but it was the kind of place you might retire to.
“He bought the land and had the house built from scratch at the same time as this fraud was going on.”
Baptiste, a trained accountant who was born on the Caribbean island of Aruba, worked for Camden Council for 10 years and for at least six of them masterminded a scam in which he duped friends and ex-colleagues into allowing money to be transferred into their accounts.
Some of his victims are thought to have died before the six-year swindle was uncovered. They went to their graves without realising that their money had been stolen.
The Town Hall said yesterday (Wednesday) that it would also seek to confiscate £65,000 of Baptiste’s pension fund to make up for losses.
Conservative social services chief Councillor Martin Davies said: “Having uncovered this fraud, we promised to work with police and other agencies to recover any missing money. I’m extremely pleased that the police have been able to do this. Together we’re showing that fraud does not pay.”
Baptiste, who is serving a three-year jail sentence for the fraud, led an extraordinary double life. On the surface, he was a committed churchgoer who did charity work in his spare time.
But his secret life as a fraudster was unravelled after his arrest at his council desk in February 2005. He was suspended without pay and later unsuccessfully went to an employment tribunal, claiming he had been the victim of racial discrimination.
The only way he can now retain ownership of his properties is if a financial backer agrees to pay the value of the homes in cash.
If the money is not paid up, he could face a further three years in jail.
DS Mackichan said: “We’ve seen other white-collar crime cases like this. It is a case where somebody had a good character but the temptation is put in front of them and they can’t resist taking it. It then just goes on and on until it is stopped.”
He added: “This is another excellent example of the continued drive by Camden police to strip away the proceeds of crime from those engaged in criminal activity.”