Abu Hamza al-Masri, the preacher jailed last year for inciting murder, was ordered yesterday to pay his defence costs of more than £1 million.
The Islamic fundamentalist pleaded poverty, but a judge at the Old Bailey gave him only
21 days to pay the money after an action brought by the Legal Services Commission (LSC) to claw back funds granted to him in legal aid.
Lord Justice Hughes said that Abu Hamza may not be able to pay, but his judgment would allow the commission to seize his assets. Abu Hamza, 48, betrayed no emotion when the judge rejected his account of his financial circumstances as "inadequate and indeed false".
The judgment followed more than two hours of evidence that the cleric gave via a video link from the high-security Belmarsh prison in London while under cross-examination by Louis Weston, counsel for the commission.
Abu Hamza, whose wife and six children live on benefits in a council house, was jailed for seven years last February for soliciting murder and stirring race hate. He is seeking to appeal to the House of Lords, having lost at the Court of Appeal last month. Extradition proceedings are pending.
Mr Weston was granted an order for the recovery of defence costs incurred during the Old Bailey trial — estimated by the defendant's solicitors to be £1,088,944.97. He gave an undertaking that the LSC would not enforce the order if Abu Hamza should win an appeal to the law lords.
The sale of a house, in Hicks Avenue, Greenford, West London, in which Abu Hamza denied having any beneficial interest, is expected to realise up to £300,000. Abu Hamza's property dealings started in May 2000 when he bought a council flat in Adie Road, Hammersmith, under a right-to-buy scheme. He bought it at a 60 per cent discount for £75,000, on condition that he did not sell it on for three years.
In August 2003 he transferred the property to his son, Mohammad Mostafa Kamel, without payment, who sold it for £228,000 in September 2004. Mr Weston said that the proceeds were used to buy the house in Greenford for £220,000. It was bought by Abu Hamza's sister, Ola Kamal Mostafa, who lives in Egypt, who in turn transferred control of her assets to Abu Hamza's wife, Najat Chaffe.
Abu Hamza claimed that he never had any financial control over the house in Greenford. The judge said he did not believe his claim that the second house belonged to his sister and accused him of lying about his financial interests.