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Lowestoft fugitive fraudster caught in Bulgaria

PUBLISHED: 11:32 13 January 2009 | UPDATED: 22:11 05 July 2010

A Suffolk fugitive responsible for a £1.9m antiques fraud has been captured in Bulgaria after nearly three years on the run.

Attempts are now being made by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) to extradite Barry Spearing, who owned Wrentham Antiques near Southwold, from the Black Sea port of Varna.

A Suffolk fugitive responsible for a £1.9m antiques fraud has been captured in Bulgaria after nearly three years on the run.

Attempts are now being made by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) to extradite Barry Spearing, who owned Wrentham Antiques near Southwold, from the Black Sea port of Varna.

The 48-year-old is believed to have been apprehended in the city last Tuesday on a European arrest warrant issued by the City of Westminster Magistrates Court.

The warrant, which was signed by Judge Anthony Evans, was taken out in August 2007 and related to forgery and counterfeiting, according to the court.

Spearing's spell on the run is said to have come to an end when he was found by Varna police officers at his hideaway in the village of Botevo, where he is reported to have been living with his girlfriend for the past two years.

The bankrupt rogue dealer was found guilty at Ipswich Crown Court in January 2006 of participating in an antiques fraud between August and November 2002. He was ordered to pay £1,873, 870 or face seven years' imprisonment.

The arrest warrant demands Spearing's arrest and his extradition to the UK.

Varna Regional Court is to discuss whether the British citizen is to be extradited. If he appeals against his arrest he could appear before Varna Appellative Court today.

A spokesman for SOCA said: “There is a European arrest warrant out for Barry Charles Spearing. He has been arrested in Bulgaria and is currently going through the Bulgarian court system.”

Spearing has been a fugitive from police and the Department of Trade and Industry ever since he was found guilty of defrauding creditors as part of the near £2m fraud.

The disgraced antiques dealer's trial in 2006 went ahead in his absence.

Weeks later Spearing, formerly of Green Drive, Lowestoft, was found guilty of 10 charges of defrauding several creditors relating to his bankruptcy in November 2002.

These included three counts of false representation on land registration, two of making gift or transfer or charge on company property before bankruptcy, one of bankrupt concealed debt and four of using false instrument.

Spearing had been due to appear at Ipswich Crown Court for sentencing in April 2006, but police were unable to find him.

The following month trial judge David Goodin issued a confiscation order for the £1,873,870 Spearing owed.

At the time of Spearing's arrest in 2005, it was claimed his problems had escalated over the years. The family antiques business, which once brought in more than £1m a year and exported across the world, hit trouble about a year before Spearing went bankrupt.

During his trial the court heard part of his scam involved filling in four blank cheques given to him by an auctioneer and dealer in Canada to buy antiques in the UK. The cheques totalled £327,635 and Spearing then paid them into his bank.


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