News story

‘Most Wanted’ tobacco smuggler caught on the Costa del Sol

A member of the one of the UK’s biggest tobacco smuggling gangs, who fled to Spain to avoid prison, has been returned to the UK to begin his sentence.

John Sabin

John Sabin, 58, from Doncaster, was part of an eight-strong gang that transported millions of smuggled cigarettes across the north of England to warehouses, storage yards and farms with the intention of selling them at a profit and evading duty.

He escaped justice after being convicted for his part in a £26 million tobacco smuggling operation which involved more than 150 million illicit cigarettes and tonnes of low-quality tobacco. He was subsequently sentenced in his absence to two years and nine months in prison.

Sabin was added to HM Revenue and Customs’ (HMRC) list of Most Wanted tax fugitives. After a public appeal for help by HMRC last month, he was tracked down by Spanish police to Malaga, on the Costa del Sol, where he was working in a bar.

HMRC’s specialist Fugitive Unit worked with the Spanish police and Interpol to return Sabin to the UK. He appeared at Derby Crown Court yesterday (15 May 2014) and was sentenced to an additional three months in prison for absconding and has now begun his time in jail.

Jennie Granger, Director General Enforcement and Compliance, HMRC, said:

John Sabin thought he could flee the country to avoid paying for his crimes. He was wrong. We have tracked him down and, in co-operation with the Spanish authorities, have brought him before the UK courts so justice can be served.

Tobacco smuggling of this size is organised crime on a global scale. It supports criminality within our communities and denies our country millions of pounds of vital revenue every year to fund public services.

We really appreciate the role that the public and other law enforcement agencies play in helping us to bring people like Sabin to justice and would encourage anyone with information about any of HMRC’s Most Wanted tax fugitives to come forward.

As well as his jail term, Sabin also faces having to repay the illegal proceeds of his criminal activity. Four other members of his gang have already been ordered to pay back over £480,000.

Published 16 May 2014