Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Went Up in Smoke; He Fled to Asia as Police Closed, but This Is Moment Cigarette Smuggler's New Life

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Went Up in Smoke; He Fled to Asia as Police Closed, but This Is Moment Cigarette Smuggler's New Life

Article excerpt

Byline: Rob Kennedy Court Reporter rob.kennedy@ncjmedia.co.uk

JUSTICE has finally caught up with a cigarette smuggling mastermind who spent more than six years on the run in Thailand.

Former milkman Paul Joyce was at the head of a gang who fleeced the taxman out of PS1.77m in excise duty on ten million cigarettes.

As the net closed in 2008, Joyce fled to Asia just hours before his co-conspirators were due to answer bail.

While other members of the gang were eventually locked up for a total of 12 years, Joyce was building a new life for himself in Thailand, where he already had a wife and son.

The 41-year-old was finally captured at a luxury hotel in the coastal resort of Hua Hin earlier this year in a joint operation between HM Revenue and Customs and the Royal Thai police.

Joyce, originally from Consett, in County Durham, spent two-and-a-half months in a tough Bangkok prison before being extradited back to the UK in July.

Now he has been jailed for two years and 11 months at Newcastle Crown Court after pleading guilty to conspiracy to fraudulently evade excise duty.

After the case, Cheryl Burr, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: "Paul Joyce thought he could dodge justice by running away to Thailand, leaving his accomplices to serve their time while he soaked up the sunshine, but now he's swapped the exotic beaches of Thailand for a prison cell.

"We will always seek to track down, detain and escort criminals like Joyce back to this country to have their day in court.

"Disrupting criminal trade is at the heart of our strategy to clamp down on the illicit tobacco market, which costs the UK around PS2.1bn a year."

Evidence against Joyce, who previously ran a milk round business, began to mount following his disappearance. HMRC investigators discovered he had jetted to Bangkok in December 2008.

They secured a warrant for his extradition and, on April 22 this year he was arrested by the Royal Thai Police in the car park of the plush Sea-Cret hotel.

After serving 10 weeks in a Thai jail, where he had to share a cell with 50 other prisoners, Joyce was escorted back to Newcastle by HMRC officers. …

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