TWO GWENT businessmen were left penniless after being ordered to repay almost £500,000 of the money they gained from flouting environmental regulations.

Directors of Able Skips Hire Ltd, Barry Hermon, 68, of Parc Seymour, Penhow, and Dennis Morgan, 64, of Broad Street Common, Nash, Newport, appeared in Cardiff Crown Court yesterday for sentencing having previously pleaded guilty one count of treating, keeping, or disposing controlled waste on land in a manner likely to cause pollution of the environment or harm to human health, seven counts of consenting in the commission of an offence, three counts of failing to comply with a condition of a waste management licence, and three counts of failing to comply with a condition of a environmental permit.

The Recorder of Cardiff, Nicholas Cooke QC, said the offences were "as bad as it gets in terms of environmental crime." He said the effect of the confiscation order under the Proceeds of Crime Act, would leave both defendants "penniless."

Hermon was sentenced to 10 months suspended for two years, with a 12-month supervision order and ordered to pay back £232,304 within 28 days. Morgan was sentenced to 10 months suspended for two years, ordered to complete 200 hours unpaid work and repay £261,269.96. He was given six months to repay the amount as he will have to sell his family home.

Prosecutor Tom Crowther said a waste management licence for Able Skips Hire Ltd was granted in 2004, permitting a maximum of 1,010 tonnes of mixed waste, with a maximum height of 2.5 metres, to be stored at a site on Nash Mead Industrial Estate, close to Leeway Industrial Estate, Newport.

Mr Crowther said on various visits between May 2006 and August 2007, the amount of waste on the site exceeded the permitted amount, and the company was prosecuted and fined a total of £27,000 in September 2007 for three offences of failing to comply with the licence.

Mr Crowther said the company continue to accept waste at the site, after its licence was partially revoked. When Environment Agency Wales officers visited in May 2008, more than 8,200 tonnes of waste were found.

The estimated cost of removing the waste which is still on the site is just under £2 million.

The court heard the two directors benefitted a total of £965,000 from the offences, but Hermon only had £232,304 available in assets and Morgan £261,269.96. Mr Crowther said Able Skips is no longer trading.

Representing Hermon, Brendon Moorhouse said as a result of the stress of the proceedings Hermon was suffering from mental health problems. He said both defendants were working jointly in the enterprise and neither was more culpable than the other.

Morgan's counsel, Andrew Jones said: "The one catastrophic consequence of these offences is that both men have been left financially destroyed."