A FUGITIVE from justice, who fled the UK from Poole four years ago, has been extradited and is now starting a six-year jail sentence.

Mark Anthony McGovern, who rented a home in exclusive Lilliput, jumped bail in the summer of 2008, having pleaded guilty to laundering £278,340.87 of criminal proceedings.

He told the judge in a note that he was unprepared to go to jail and found the idea “frightening and upsetting”.

However the judge at Canterbury Crown Court, where McGovern, 49, was due for sentencing on August 1 2008, issued a warrant for his arrest.

The money was part of the proceeds of a £7million VAT fraud, which saw another defendant convicted of cheating the public revenue and money laundering.

McGovern was later sentenced to two years’ imprisonment in his absence on August 29 2008.

HM Revenue and Customs issued a European arrest warrant for McGovern who was renting a harbourside home in Dorset Lake Avenue, where a nearby property sold a few years ago for £4.8m.

He and his wife lived in Poole from 2003, after he came out of prison for conspiracy to defraud, having fled to Belgium and been extradited, until 2008 when he ran away again.

McGovern had business interests in Poole and was often seen dining in hotels around Sandbanks. His wife is believed to have lived locally until 2010/11.

He is thought to have lived in Spain or Southern France until being tracked down by French authorities near Montpellier last month.

“McGovern is finally facing UK justice after four years on the run,” said Martin Brown, HMRC assistant director criminal investigation.

“We are determined to pursue fugitives and ensure they face the consequences of their criminal activity. We can now begin to recover the proceeds of crime he laundered, which with daily interest currently stands at over £345,000.”

In a letter of April 1 2008 to His Honour Judge Van de Bijl, McGovern explained his non-attendance at court for sentencing saying he was unprepared to go to jail and found the thought “frightening and upsetting”.

He added: “I was totally amazed at the scope of the ‘criminal lifestyle’ legislation and have been unable to ready myself for this and feel it would be an impossible job from a prison cell… I assure your Honour that I will hand myself in as soon as I have completed this task.”

Four years later he was still on the run.

However HMRC successfully applied for a confiscation order for the money laundered and on March 2 2009 a judge ruled the sum should be paid within 28 days or he would have to serve a further four years in jail and still pay the money.

They will continue to seek recovery of the sum from McGovern, who also owns a £420,000 property in Chigwell, Essex.

• McGovern is due to appear at Canterbury Crown Court in May for failing to surrender to his bail in 2008.