A FORMER milkman who masterminded a plot to smuggle millions of cigarettes into the country is due back in court later this month.

It is understood HM Revenue and Customs is seeking a seven figure confiscation sum from Paul Joyce, 43, who was originally from Consett.

Joyce fled to the Far East in 2008, hours before the other members of his gang answered bail for the £1.7m excise duty evasion.

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Months later, his six associates were handed jail sentences totalling 12 years.

In April 2015, after more than six years on the run, Joyce was captured at a luxury hotel in the coastal resort of Hua Hin in a joint operation between HMRC and Thai police.

Joyce was extradited from Thailand to face justice in the region after serving ten weeks in jail.

In October 2015, Newcastle Crown Court was told he led a gang that was caught with a total of ten million non-duty paid cigarettes.

They passed off their illicit cargo on import paperwork as various items ranging from clothing to dog food.

His status as the gang’s kingpin was confirmed by mobile phone evidence linking him to his co-conspirators, proving he was in charge and pinpointing his whereabouts to key geographical locations.

He pleaded guilty to the fraudulent evasion of excise duty and was jailed for two years and eleven months by Recorder Euan Duff.

Investigations have been ongoing and Proceeds of Crime hearing is due to be held at Newcastle Crown Court on January 29.

Arrangements for the case were fixed at a hearing held in the Moot Hall in Newcastle on Friday afternoon.