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Cigarette smuggler jailed after six years on the run

Press Release   •   Dec 16, 2013 08:53 GMT

A convicted cigarette smuggler who fled the country six years ago has been jailed.

Paul James Wright, 52, from Liverpool, smuggled over three million cigarettes into the UK, and was wanted by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for evading over £500,000 in duty.

He absconded after conviction and was believed to have escaped to the Far East. On 1 October 2013, Wright was stopped and arrested at Malaysian Border Controls at Kuala Lumpur Airport travelling on a false passport. He was deported on a direct flight back to the UK in relation to the passport offence, and arrived at Heathrow Airport on 6 December 2013.

Sandra Smith, Assistant Director of Criminal Investigation, HMRC, said:

“Wright tried to run from justice by fleeing aboard thinking he would be safe – but he was wrong. We relentlessly pursue tax fugitives for their criminal activity and after six years on the run, Wright is now serving his time.

“If anyone has any information on any other UK tax fugitive, I urge them to contact us via our Customs Hotline on 0800 59 5000, so they can face justice.”

Wright was immediately arrested when he arrived at Heathrow Airport. He appeared before HHJ Stockdale sitting at Manchester Crown Court on Friday, 13 December, where he was ordered to serve his original three year sentence, plus an additional 24 weeks for breaching his bail conditions.

He is the 17th tax fugitive to be brought to justice this year. HMRC publishes details of its Most Wanted tax fugitives at

Notes for Editors

1.  In 2007 Paul James Wright, DOB 23/02/61, then of Liverpool, pleaded guilty to two counts and was found guilty of a further two counts of being knowingly concerned in keeping certain goods with the intent to defraud Her Majesty of the duty chargeable thereon, and possessing criminal property. The ‘goods’ were 3,440,400 smuggled cigarettes seized in Manchester in 2006.

2.  Wright absconded after being convicted. He was sentenced in his absence to three years in prison and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

3.  Anyone with details on any of the Most Wanted fugitives can contact HMRC’s Customs Hotline on 0800 59 5000 (UK callers), 00800 555 95000 (callers from Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Republic of Ireland, Netherlands), 900 988 922 (callers from mainland Spain), 0044 208 929 0153 (callers from any other country).

4.  Photographs available on HMRC’s Flickr channel

5.  Follow us on Twitter @hmrcgovuk

Issued by HM Revenue & Customs Press Office

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is the UK’s tax authority.

HMRC is responsible for making sure that the money is available to fund the UK’s public services and for helping families and individuals with targeted financial support.