Hunt for £26m cigarette smuggler

John Sabin, of Doncaster
John Sabin, of Doncaster

A manhunt has been launched to catch a runaway convict who took part in a £26 million illegal cigarette smuggling operation.

John Sabin, of York Road, Scawthorpe, absconded before he could be sent to prison.

Now investigators from HM Revenue and Customs are appealing for help in tracking him down.

Sabin went on the run shortly after his conviction at Derby Crown Court in November 2012.

He was sentenced to two years and nine months in prison in his absence.

Sandra Smith, HMRC’s assistant director in criminal investigation, said they need the public’s help to catch him.

She added: “We are keen to speak to anyone who could help us locate Sabin. We know he has friends, family and contacts particularly in South Yorkshire.

“Sabin has been convicted of a serious crime and should be behind bars serving the sentence he has been given, not enjoying his freedom.

“We want to remind people that harbouring a convicted criminal is a criminal offence, and urge anyone with information on his whereabouts to contact our hotline on 0800 595 000.”

Sabin was a courier for a gang of Yorkshire-based smugglers, who described their tobacco as ‘wet, mouldy and smells like manure, but sells because it’s cheap’.

The gang flooded the north of England with more than 150 million cigarettes and two tonnes of low quality tobacco.

The other gang members were Doncaster men Daniel Harty and Billy-Jo Wall.

David Donaghue from Newcastle upon Tyne, and Retford men Ben Kirk, Peter Lawrence, Jonathan Ellis and brothers William and Samual Tomlinson, were also in the gang.

The gang created a distribution network that transported millions of cigarettes throughout the north of England to warehouses, storage yards and farms.

The shipments were then broken down into smaller loads and delivered to towns and cities across the UK to sell on the black market.