THE Yorkshire ringleader of a multi-million pound drug smuggling operation has been arrested in the Phillipines more than a year after disappearing while facing trial in the UK.
John Halliday, from Bingley, has been wanted since September 2013 and was sentenced to ten years in his absence for his role in a plot to import £13m of illegal synthetic drugs into the country from India and China.
He was arrested on Friday in the Philippines, 7,000 miles from the UK, having absconded before the start of his trial in October 2013.
It will be the first time a British citizen has been brought back to the UK from the country and is the result of a joint operation between West Yorkshire Police, the National Crime Agency and the Crown Prosecution Service.
According to police, Halliday was a lead member of an organised crime group responsible for importing and supplying synthetically produced Class B drugs on a major scale.
He set up the smuggling operation in 2010 when the “legal highs” he had been selling as a sideline to his main body-building supplement business were classified as class B substances, making it illegal to import, sell, or possess them.
The drugs were imported from China and India, through Greece and Germany. Complex financial arrangements were put in place to disguise money moving from the UK to China to pay for the purchase.
Police say a network of recipients was created in the UK, meaning postal addresses were provided for the receipt of the drugs.
While Halliday remained in overall control, Paul Arabskyj, from Wakefield, provided finance and banking for the scheme. They were among 16 defendants sentenced last year.
After detectives traced him to the Phillipines, the arrest request was submitted in 2014 and it has taken ten months to locate him in the country and arrest him.
Halliday, whose last known address is in Beckwithshaw, Harrogate, will remain in custody until he is returned to the UK, though he can lodge an appeal. When he gets back to Britain, he will be taken immediately to prison to serve his sentence.
Detective Inspector Neil Hollis, of West Yorkshire Police’s Crime Division, said: “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. 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.”