A MILLIONAIRE criminal who set up a forgery business in Huddersfield is on the run.
Ronald Priestley, 65, is the mastermind behind a multi-million- pound fake currency enterprise.
But now he is thought to have fled - as a court jailed him for eight years in his absence.
Priestley is still on the run after jumping bail last year while awaiting trial.
He was accused of organising the sophisticated operation, which could have printed £4.5m in counterfeit £20 notes.
He had served an earlier jail sentence for a fake perfume racket in Huddersfield.
A jury at Leeds Crown Court, which heard the evidence against Priestley even though he was not there, unanimously convicted him of conspiracy to make counterfeit notes between March 31 and June 29, 2004.
He has a long criminal history, including convictions for forgery and counterfeiting. In April, 2002, he was jailed for 18 months for conspiring with others to sell counterfeit perfume and champagne.
He was said to have employed a chemist to produce thousands of bottles of scent bearing designer labels such as Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior and others.
He was also producing fake CDs and fake champagne.
Police then used new laws to try and seize his assets - said to be worth more than £2.5m.
Police teams who mounted the huge operation in Huddersfield found 138,000 bottles of perfume, 1,500 bottles of wine falsely labelled as Moet and Chandon champagne and printing plates.
It was believed to be one of the biggest-ever hauls of fake perfume in Britain.
The places raided by police were in Skelmanthorpe and Emley.
One unit, in a former mill at Skelmanthorpe, had been turned into a production line, with three people employed to turn out the fake products and packaging.
A second Skelmanthorpe unit was used as a holding warehouse for boxes of perfume.
The Emley unit was a store for raw materials and packaging.
Police also recovered cheap Spanish sparkling wine labelled as champagne at the factory.
Following that conviction Priestley was ordered to pay almost £2.3m under a confiscation order - estimated to be the proceeds of his then criminal activities - or face extra years in prison.
Sentencing Priestley on Wednesday, Judge Geoffrey Marson QC ordered that the eight-year sentence for his currency offence should be served consecutively to whatever sentence he may receive if the confiscation order is not paid from the sale of his home in Park Road, Colton, Leeds, and the seizure of other assets.
He said Priestley had shown himself to be a sophisticated and professional criminal, well known to the courts for offences of counterfeiting.
The judge was satisfied Priestley had played the leading role in the printing enterprise, found housed at a unit in Birmingham.
It was described by a Bank of England official as an expert operation for the production of high- quality £20 notes.
The judge praised Detective Chief Inspector Stephen Waite and his team, including money laundering investigation officers, for their work exposing the operation.
The operation included surveillance of Priestley and two other men involved, John Grimshaw and Dennis Coe.
Last year Coe, 56, of Holt Farm Close, Leeds, was jailed for three-and-a-half years and Grimshaw, 40, of Stanley Road, Walkden, Manchester, for four years.
They had pleaded guilty to conspiracy.
The sentences could not previously be reported, pending f Priestley's trial.
The jury heard that Priestley became involved in the fake currency scheme shortly after the confiscation order was made - possibly to try pay the money without losing his assets.
The judge said an estimated £74,000 in fake currency had got into circulation, but the foiled plan could have put £2.5m in £20 notes into the banking system.
After the case Det Chief Insp Waite said Priestley was believed to have contacts in Spain, Tenerife and Ireland.
He added: "This sentence sends out a strong message to anyone who is considering involving themselves in the counterfeiting trade, but especially those tempted to reproduce banknotes."