Hunt for 'Al Capone' prison cell tax evader

An arrest warrant has been issued for a man who left court during a break in his sentencing hearing.

Inmate Nigel Harker, 47, of Raby Road, Hartlepool, made £30,000 cash via an illegal trading enterprise from his cell at HMP Northumberland in 2020, but failed to pay income tax on the money.

On Friday, Harker admitted tax evasion and a dangerous driving offence. He was sentenced to 19 months in jail with a three-year road ban.

The judge likened the case to the famous Al Capone tax trial.

The notorious Chicago gangster was sentenced to 11 years in prison for failing to file tax returns.

In Harker's case, prosecutor Michael Cahill told Newcastle Crown Court: "In 2020 the defendant was a serving prisoner in HMP Northumberland where he was a wheeler dealer and trader.

"Named individuals and others purchased items from him by way of trading and debts accrued.

"Over the relevant period the defendant had a turnover of about £30,000.

"Had he been paying tax on that, allowing for base rate allowances, it would have been around £3,080."

HMP Northumberland exterior. Grey gates around the prison complex. The bootom half of the wall is solid concrete, the top half is made of barbed wire.
Harker ran his business from his cell at HMP Northumberland [Google]

Harker was initially charged with blackmail in relation to his illegal jail cell business, which he denied.

However, prosecutors accepted his guilty plea to income tax evasion.

Harker was due to be sentenced at Newcastle Crown Court on Friday, but left the building during a break in the hearing.

A warrant was issued for his arrest.

'I've seen this film'

Judge Stephen Earl jailed him in his absence and said: "Who said crime doesn't pay?

"I think I've seen this film actually, in 1931, when finally 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 did they get him on? Evasion of income tax."

Capone was found guilty of tax evasion in 1931.

He had reportedly boasted: "They can't collect legal taxes from illegal money."

In relation to Harker, Judge Earl said: "This was him basically selling produce in prison and not paying his dues."

The dangerous driving offence related to Harker "flying through red lights", travelling on the wrong side of the road and "almost having an accident" in his BMW in Hartlepool in 2022.

David Hall, mitigating, said Harker had health problems.

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