Former Consett milkman jailed over cigarette smuggling scam

Paul Joyce has been jailed for almost three years

A former milkman from County Durham has been jailed for running an illegal cigarette-smuggling operation after seven years on the run in Thailand.

Paul Joyce fled his home in Consett, when six other members ofhis gang were arrested and jailed for a total of 12 years in 2008.

The arrests were made after customs officers made a series of illegalseizures, totalling 10 million cigarettes, which were brought into the UK between May and September that year.

A total of £1,771,265 in duty was evaded on the haul by the criminal gang.

Newcastle Crown Court heard, when the jail sentences were passed, Joyce had moved to Thailand to live with his wife and son.

After seven years evading justice, the 40-year-old was arrested in April onan international arrest warrant and brought back to the UK.

Joyce appeared in the Newcastle dock yesterday and admitted evasion ofduty.

Prosecutor Robert Stevenson told the court:

This defendant was the point of contact for all of the other conspirators and was the principal organiser of this conspiracy. On each of the occasions the cigarettes were being smuggled, this defendant co-ordinated the operation by telephone with the individual conspirators being on the ground.

Prosecutor Robert Stevenson

Mr Recorder Euan Duff sentenced Joyce to two years and 11 month behindbars.

The judge told him:

You appear to be dealt with now because, before you were arrested, undoubtedly knowing other people had been arrested and there would be likely trouble coming your way, you went to Thailand. I accept you had connections to that country, a Thai wife and son. I am perfectly satisfied, to some extent, your motivation was to avoid responsibility for these matters.

Mr Recorder Euan Duff

The court heard Joyce feels remorse for his involvement in the smugglinggang.