A landlord who illegally broke up a house into four flats must hand over more than £220,000 in illegally-earned rent.

Mehdi Amrollahi, 58, of Hendon Way, Childs Hill, who is thought to have left the country, was ordered in his absence to pay £223,751.31 under the Proceeds of Crime Act after a hearing at Harrow Crown Court last month.

Investigators from Barnet Council’s Corporate Anti-Fraud Team (CAFT), working with planning enforcement officers, brought confiscation proceedings based on the rent he collected on the flats for almost six years - during which Amrollahi never had planning permission.

Proceedings were brought despite Amrollahi absconding and leaving the country before the council could conclude a prosecution for planning offences.

It is the first time the authority has taken this approach.

A warrant for Amrollahi’s arrest was issued in 2017 after he twice failed to appear in court to answer charges for the planning offences.

The financial investigation involved proving that Amrollahi had absconded from criminal proceedings and obtaining evidence from a range of sources.

Amrollahi has three months to repay the money or he will face a default jail term of two years and nine months.

The court heard how Amrollahi converted the property in Hendon Way, Childs Hill, into self-contained flats without planning permission. When enforcement officers visited, they found the semi-detached home converted into four poorly converted flats.

After having a retrospective planning application for the changes turned down, he was required to restore the property to a single dwelling by the end of January 2013.

But he repeatedly ignored the enforcement notice and communications from the council.

At the hearing on March 12, the court made a confiscation order for £223,751.31 based on the rent Amrollahi would have derived from the illegal subdivision.

He was also ordered to pay £7,164.85 in costs.

Barnet Council leader Cllr Richard Cornelius said: “This is a very sizeable confiscation order made by the courts, and sends a very clear message to landlords who are intent on brazenly ignoring planning regulations in order to profit from illegally sub-dividing homes in this way.

“It is totally unacceptable for people to flout the rules, and those contemplating something similar can rest assured that our planning enforcement team and financial fraud investigators will take the action necessary.”