TWO High Court judges have ruled a Blackburn man can appeal against an order to extradite him to Italy where he faces a prison sentence.

Marek Lewicki, born in Poland, was convicted in his absence by a criminal court in Naples in October 2015 with 11 others of organising a criminal cross-border tobacco smuggling organisation to avoid tax.

The 45-year-old was sentenced to three years and eight months in prison.

Nine other charges relating to specific offences of smuggling tobacco were dismissed as being out of time.

Lewicki moved to Blackburn in 2010 to live with his partner and their two children, now nine and six. He was arrested in the town on June 28 2015.

The Italian court applied for Lewicki’s extradition to Naples under a European Arrest Warrant EAW for all ten charges, also alleging he had absconded to avoid trial.

In August 2016 District Judge John Zani sitting at Westminster Magistrates Court ruled he could be extradited to Italy on all counts.

The Judge said Lewicki could still use the Italian courts to appeal his conviction for being part of a criminal association operating between 2005 and 2010.

Last year Lewicki appealed to the High Court in London on five grounds against that decision and the case was heard by Judges Sir Nigel Sweeney and Dame Victoria Sharp.

They dismissed the appeal on four of the five grounds and quashed the extradition for the nine specific offences of smuggling which the Italian court had ruled out of time.

Judge Sweeney in a published judgement said: "However, the order for the applicant’s extradition in relation to the offence of participation in a criminal association stands.”

He added that while the conviction for forming a criminal association to organise cross border tobacco smuggling included the conduct underlying the nine specific and dated offences, it was not confined to that conduct,

However Judge Sweeney, with Judge Sharp’s agreement, allowed Lewicki to appeal his extradition for the offence for which he had been convicted and imprisoned on grounds of potential abuse of process

He said any appeal would be ‘strictly limited to the abuse of process argument in relation to the ultimate order to extradite the applicant in respect of all the offences set out in the EAW’.

The judges dismissed the claim he had absconded saying he did not know the trial in Naples was taking place.

The charges in Italy alleged that Lewicki and others had formed ‘a criminal cross-border organisation which operated in Italy and Poland’.

They said he ‘promoted, set up, directed and organised the criminal organisation – the object of which was to carry out an indeterminate series of offences involving the smuggling of large quantities of foreign processed tobacco into Italy, thereby avoiding the payment of VAT’.

The accusation against Lewicki was that he ‘in particular, had been a permanent and continuative supplier of tobacco originating from outside Italy and destined for the markets of Naples’.