A CONVICTED con man has been given an extra year in jail after he was found to have submitted fake paperwork to his fraud trial in a bid to get a lesser sentence.

But if the authorities want to get him behind bars they will have to catch him first.

Costas Geronikolos, 58, formerly of Capesthorne Drive, Haydon End, fled to his native Greece in June part-way through his trial for perverting the cause of justice.

Geronikolos booked a British Airway ticket to Athens just one day into his trial at Swindon Crown Court. The jury offered a unanimous guilty verdict and Geronikolos was convicted in his absence.

Yesterday, the Greek-born former marketing director was sentenced to 12 months behind bars.

Swindon Crown Court was told that efforts had been made to find Geronikolos in Athens. While fraud officers had established he had definitely boarded the BA flight 36 hours after his trial opened, they were yet to track him down in Greece.

A European arrest warrant is being issued for his arrest, prosecutor Nick Turner said.

Geronikolos was jailed for a year and eight months in 2016 after he admitted defrauding friends and family out of more than £180,000.

The dad-of-two had told investors he could guarantee returns of at least 20 per cent in a scheme involving the NatWest bank. Many handed over their life savings, including a man trying to modify his home after his wife suffered a brain haemorrhage.

At the time, Judge Tim Mousley QC told Geronikolos: "You took advantage of people who trusted you. You manipulated them and you abused the trust that they reposed in you.The impact on these people is not just financial, and in some cases the amounts were significant, but also the impact in that they trusted you and they will bear the impact for many, many, years."

At his trial, Geronikolos handed over invoices that apparently showed he was able to fully repay his victims. They later turned out to be fake.

The judge at that trial, Judge Mousley, was said to have been sceptical of this evidence. Judge Jason Taylor QC, hearing the latest case of perverting the course of justice, said he did not believe his colleague had been influenced by the false papers.

But Judge Taylor took a dim view of the attempt to outwit the court, which he said struck at the heart of the justice system.

He said: “Mr Geronikolos had no intention of repaying the £120,000 that was approximately outstanding and he was simply seeking to better his position through further dishonesty.”

Defending, Harry Warner made a plea for leniency: “Mr Geronikolos is a man who until 2016 was of complete good character.” Arriving in the UK from Greece in 1978, he was educated here, ran a business, married and had two children. “He lived what appears to be a relatively unblemished life. It was this fraud that led to a spiral of events that led to him losing everything.”

He added: “He is the author of his own downfall. I would ask your honour the sentence is as short as possible.”

Since being convicted of fraud, Geronikolos had become estranged from his wife and had very little contact with his teenaged children. Mr Warner said: “He is now a man who finds himself with the police looking for him.”

Judge Taylor asked prosecutors to make sure a European arrest warrant was issued by the authorities as soon as possible. He said he wanted Geronikolos to return before him to answer charges of failing to surrender to the court.