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Thief must sell stamp collection on eBay


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An accountant who stole £70,000 from two churches has been ordered by a judge to repay the money by selling his huge stamp collection on eBay.


Derek Klein, 53, was jailed for 16 months in September after admitting taking the money over a 14-year period when he worked as the treasurer of two parochial church councils.


Norwich Crown Court heard how Klein, one of the leading philatelists in Britain, had spent the money on funding his addiction to stamp dealing and internet gambling.


Now his entire collection will be auctioned off on the website, triggering intense interest from stamp collectors around the world. Items in his collection include stamps issued to mark the silver jubilee of George V, the silver wedding of George VI and England’s victory over West Germany in the 1966 World Cup final.


Prosecutors had wanted to confiscate his collection of 100,000 first-day covers so that they could be auctioned to pay back the money he stole from the churches but Klein, who ran a stamp dealing business from his home in Ridlington, Norfolk, argued that a conventional auction might struggle to raise £25,000. He claimed that he could instead make £100,000 by breaking up his collection and selling the stamps in individual lots on eBay.


During a hearing to confiscate the philatelist’s assets, Judge Peter Jacobs agreed that Klein could use the internet auction site to dispose of his collection, which had been amassed from the proceeds of his crime.


The court heard that Klein, who has been released from prison, had already paid back £15,000 to St Peter’s Church in Ridlington and nearby St Andrew’s Church, Bacton, in Norfolk.


The churches will get the first £55,000 that he makes from his eBay sales so that they can be paid back in full while he can keep any extra cash.


Judge Jacobs said that the move would provide an incentive for Klein to achieve the best possible price and to ensure that the churches got their money back in full. He took the unusual step after hearing that Klein was one of the top five stamp dealers of his kind in the country.


Judge Jacobs ordered that the sales be closely monitored by the police and managed by Klein’s solicitors. He cautioned Klein that he would be jailed if he tried to hide the proceeds of the sales. “If this man tries to cream off any of this money he would be a fool,” the judge said. “I’m sure Mr Klein will have been told of my reputation and he will spend a lot more time behind bars if he tries to rip us off.”


Judge Jacobs said that he would give Klein five months to show that he could sell the stamps and would be given more time after that if he proved successful. But he cautioned that the stamps would be seized by the courts if he did not make enough from eBay.


The Rev Eiler Mellerup, curate at Ridlington and Bacton, said: “It would be wonderful if the parishes received back the money that was taken. It would be very fair because they struggle to raise funds.”


Klein pocketed the proceeds of fêtes, gifts and grants to the churches by taking cash from their bank accounts and spending it on stamps and gambling. He admitted stealing £57,000 from the 15th-century St Andrew’s church between 1984 and January 2007 and £13,000 from St Peter’s over 14 years from 1993.


The court heard that Klein made many of his losses on an internet gambling site where his online nickname was The Bishop.



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