Alleged UK cigarette smuggler captured in Hua Hin

Alleged UK cigarette smuggler captured in Hua Hin

Fugitive said to be mastermind of £2-million caper

Paul Joyce (second left) is arrested in Hua Hin on Wednesday after fleeing tax-evasion charges in the UK. (Photo by Wassayos Ngamkham)
Paul Joyce (second left) is arrested in Hua Hin on Wednesday after fleeing tax-evasion charges in the UK. (Photo by Wassayos Ngamkham)

A British fugitive who allegedly masterminded a cigarette-smuggling ring that cost the UK government £2 million in lost tax revenue in 2008 was captured in Hua Hin on Wednesday.

Paul Joyce, of Northumberland in northeast England, was apprehended by Special Branch Police officers at a parking lot at the Sea-Cret Hua Hin hotel in the Prachuap Khiri Khan province resort town.

Pol Lt Col Boonsanong Baotun of the Special Branch Police Division 1 said the arrest was made after the Criminal Court approved his arrest on Wednesday.

Mr Joyce is wanted on an arrest warrant from UK police and had fled to Thailand to escape prosecution for evasion of excise taxes.

The Special Branch Police did not say when he entered Thailand, but it could have been in 2008, when 10 alleged accomplices were caught by UK customs officials smuggling 10 million black-market cigarettes into the country.

Customs officers captured the men while they delivered and unloaded the duty-free smokes and rolling tobacco throughout the Northeast, according to The Journal. Numerous arrests had been made before the ring was smashed for good.

Authorities estimated that the UK lost almost £2 million in tax revenue from the scheme.

The court in Newcastle sent seven members of the gang to prison for 12 months to over two years in 2011. One man was acquitted and Mr Joyce, allegedly the kingpin, escaped to Thailand.

"Paul Joyce is at the centre of this conspiracy. On each occasion the cigarettes were being smuggled the prosecution say Joyce played a significant role co-ordinating the operation by phone with individuals on the ground." The Journal quoted prosecutor Alex Offer as saying during one of the trials.



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