Tax fraud convict compared to notorious Al Capone after raking in £30k from cell

A judge in the case of Nigel Harker (left) made a light-hearted reference to infamous Al Capone (right), who was jailed after the authorities got him for tax evasion
-Credit: (Image: Northumbria Police/Getty)

A prisoner who raked in £30,000 as a wheeler-dealer behind bars fled court after a judge compared him to American criminal Al Capone.

Hartlepool's Nigel Harker made the income selling items while serving a sentence at HMP Northumberland. He was originally charged with blackmail but ended up admitting evading Income Tax.

During his sentencing hearing at Newcastle Crown Court, Judge Stephen Earl made a light-hearted reference to infamous American gangster Capone, who was eventually jailed after the authorities got him for tax evasion. Judge Earl then rose to consider sentence and by the time he came back, Harker had left the building. He was given a prison sentence in his absence and an arrest warrant was issued.

The court heard Harker, who has 256 previous convictions, had been serving a sentence at the time of the tax fraud, reports Chronicle Live. David Hall, prosecuting, said: "He was a serving prisoner at HMP Northumberland, where he was a wheeler-dealer and trader.

"Some people bought items off him by way of trading and debts accrued. Over the period, the defendant had a turnover of about £30,000." This mean he evaded around £3,000 in Income Tax over the period, which was around a year.

Judge Earl interjected, saying: "Who says crime doesn't pay? With no outgoings it's not a bad income."

He added: "I think I've seen the film actually, back in 1931 when the FBI got Al Capone for his dealings with hooch, prostitution and drugs. Of course they couldn't get him on any of those things and what they did get him on was evasion of income tax. So you are in good company, you will be easy to remember. I'm not going to quite send you to the island in the middle of San Francisco bay but you understand the serious nature of this."

The judge then rose to think about the sentence in his chambers and by the time he came back, Harker, 47, who had been on bail, had left the building. His barrister, Michael Cahill, told the judge: "He has voluntarily absented himself. He knows what's going to happen."

As well as the tax evasion offence, Harker also pleaded guilty to dangerous driving on December 7, 2022 in Hartlepool, during which he drove significantly excess of speed limits, including in 20mph and 30mph zones. While watching footage of the driving, Judge Earl said: "If that's 20mph I've seen rocket ships going slower."

Harker, who was also in breach of a previous suspended sentence, was sentenced to 19 months imprisonment and banned from driving.

Mr Cahill said Harker, has had health problems and on the day of the dangerous driving had found out he might have been seriously ill.

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