'Most wanted' cigarette smuggler jailed

'Most wanted' cigarette smuggler jailed

A 21-year-old cigarette smuggler who featured on a list of most wanted tax fugitives has been jailed after handing himself into the authorities.

After being named on HM Revenue and Customs' (HMRC) Most Wanted list, Michael 'Arthur' Fearon from Newry, gave himself up on Thursday.

He is now in Magheraberry Prison serving a sentence for tobacco fraud.

Fearon was arrested on 29 June 2010 and pleaded 'not guilty' in March last year to a charge in connection with the suspected evasion of excise duty on nearly 8.4 million cigarettes - costing the UK over £1.6m in duty.

However, Fearon absconded during his trial on 19 September last year.

He was tried in his absence and found guilty and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

On 25 October he was sentenced as a minor to one year imprisonment and one year on licence.

The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, David Gauke, said: "The vast majority of hardworking people pay their taxes, but it is absolutely unacceptable that a minority tries to cheat the Exchequer.

"It's good news that this particular fraudster has handed himself in, but there are still others on the Most Wanted list on the run. Our message to them is clear: HMRC is looking for you and they will find you."

Donald Toon, Director of Criminal Investigation, HMRC, said: "Fearon thought he could go on the run to avoid facing justice - but he was wrong. We relentlessly pursue tax fugitives and ensure they face the consequences of their criminal activity, and after over a year on the run, Fearon has done the right thing.

"If anyone has any information on any of our other Most Wanted fugitives, I urge you to contact us via our Customs Hotline on 0800 595 000, so they can pay for their crimes."

After handing himself in at Musgrave Street Police Station, Belfast on Thursday, he later appeared before His Honour Judge Stevens sitting at the Royal Courts of Justice Belfast and was transported to HM Prison, Magheraberry to serve his sentence.

He is the fourth of HMRC's Most Wanted tax fugitives to be brought to justice since the list of criminals was published last year.

Michael Fearon (centre)

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