A Caribbean “hitman” suspected of being involved in four murders has been handed £5,000 in compensation from Britain after an unlawful raid on his London home.
Cecil Heilligger, who police said “co-ordinates assassinations”, is also accused of laundering money and being a member of a criminal gang.
Authorities in Sint Maarten, a constituent country of the Netherlands which forms half of the Dutch-French Caribbean island, asked the UK for mutual assistance with their probe in March 2021.
The Metropolitan Police applied to Westminster Magistrates’ Court for a warrant to raid his home in London and arrest him, a request which was granted.
Police carried out a dawn raid on the property and detained Mr Heilligger before searching rooms for two hours.
Officers seized 25 items, including mobile phones, an iPad, a computer, cannabis and about £62,000 in cash.
Within days the cash had been paid into a bank account, as requested by the Sint Maarten authorities, which meant it could no longer be used as evidence in the investigation. Mr Heilligger was not notified about this until a later date.
He challenged the warrant on three grounds.
Firstly, that the entry, search and seizure of property was illegal because the warrant did not clearly set out a remit.
Secondly, he argued that the arrest warrant handed to his partner after his arrest was not an original copy.
He also claimed the cash taken from his home had been retained unlawfully.
The Met admitted that the warrant should have been quashed because it failed to identify the articles being sought and did not explain the allegations, which rendered the search and seizure of property unlawful.
A lawyer for the police force wrote to Mr Heilligger’s solicitor in October and acknowledged that the cash was not being held lawfully because "it had mistakenly been banked" by the Met.
The solicitor requested the money to be returned to Mr Heilligger.
The High Court in London on Friday concluded that the “flaws in the warrant mean that it cannot provide a legal justification for the entry by police officers into his home, the search of the property, and the seizure of his goods”, court papers said.
“The [Met] does not seek to rely on any other justification for that conduct. The [Met] therefore now admits liability for trespass."
Mr Justice Johnson said the warrant was “defective”.
“The trespass was to the claimant's home rather than to commercial premises,” he told the court. “It took place at 5am and lasted for just over two hours. Three police officers were present. Damage was caused to the door.
“The claimant is entitled to be compensated, not just for the unlawful entry into and search of his property but also the unlawful taking of his property.
“In all the circumstances, I am content to award the sum sought by Mr [Alun] Jones QC, which was not positively opposed by Mr [Nicholas] Yeo, of £5,000.”
Mr Jones had acted on behalf of the claimant, while Mr Yeo represented the Met.
Sint Maarten authorities issued an appeal to the UK for the claimant to be extradited, which was granted in December. An appeal against the order remains outstanding.