Harrogate drugs smuggler caught after 16 months on the run

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A drugs baron from Harrogate who disappeared before he could stand trial for a £13m smuggling racket has been caught in the Philippines after more than a year on the run.

John Halliday, from Beckwithshaw, has been wanted by police since he absconded before the start of his trial in October 2013.

In his absence, he was tried and sentenced to 10 years in jail for his role in a multi-million pound drug smuggling operation.

The 32-year-old was arrested on Friday, January 23 in the Philippines and police are preparing for his extradition.

“Halliday is a dangerous convicted criminal and we are delighted that he has finally been arrested and is in the custody of the authorities in the Philippines,” said Det Insp Neil Hollis, of West Yorkshire Police’s Crime Division.

“It has taken a lot of hard work but we are now a step closer to bringing him back to the UK to serve his prison sentence.”

Halliday’s extradition will be the first time a British citizen has been brought back to the UK from the Philippines.

Police say Halliday was a lead member of a “highly sophisticated” organised crime group responsible for importing and supplying synthetically produced Class B drugs on a major scale.

He was convicted along with 14 other defendants following the largest investigation conducted by West Yorkshire Police (WYP) into the importation and supply of synthetic drugs from China and India.

His arrest followed a long and complex operation which resulted in a raid on business premises in the Hunslet area of Leeds, in October 2011 and the recovery of 10 kilos of drugs with a street value of £250,000. The operation, say police, was on an industrial scale.

Halliday disappeared in September 2013, before the start of his trial, and detectives soon became aware that he had absconded to the Philippines. A request for his arrest was submitted in early 2014 and it has taken 10 months to locate him in the country and take him in for questioning.

Police say he will remain in custody in the Philippines until he is returned to the UK though he can lodge an appeal against the proceedings. When he gets back to Britain, he will be taken immediately to prison to serve his sentence.

“This has been a joint operation with the National Crime Agency, the CPS and the Foreign Office but it has been led by our officers who were determined not to let Halliday slip through the net,” said Det Insp Hollis.

“It sends a clear message to anyone who thinks they can evade punishment - even if criminals travel thousands of miles away we will do everything in our power to bring them to justice.”