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Convicted drugs gang fugitive arrested in Thailand

Time and date:2010-12-5 17:23:32  author:Press center2   source:Press center 1  view:  comment:0
Content summary:Richard Wakeling, one of the UK's most wanted criminals, is arrested after fleeing in 2018. network

A drug gang boss who has been on the run for five years has been arrested in Thailand, the National Crime Agency (NCA) has said.

Richard Wakeling, 55, of Brentwood, Essex, fled the country in January 2018 on the eve of his trial.

He was convicted in his absence of trying to import £8m of amphetamines in 2016 and jailed for 11 years in April 2018 at Chelmsford Crown Court.

Wakeling had been on the NCA's most wanted list.

He was arrested by Thai police on Friday at a Bangkok garage as he went to collect his car after repairs.

The NCA said he was found in possession of a passport in another identity.

Wakeling, who had been living in the beachside town of Hua Hin, remains in custody and extradition proceedings are under way.

David Coyle, NCA regional manager for Thailand, said: "The NCA has worked relentlessly to trace Wakeling and ensure he returns to the UK to serve his prison sentence."

In 2019 the NCA issued an appeal for help finding Wakeling and released CCTV footage of him before he fled.

It began its investigation into Wakeling's organised crime group after Border Force colleagues stopped a truck boarding a Channel Tunnel train on 9 April 2016.

The truck contained plastic drums carrying the drugs.

The driver was transporting furniture from Italy but stopped at Ternat in Belgium where phone evidence showed he was directed to collect the drugs.

The entire importation was set up by Wakeling.

He was in contact with drug suppliers in the Netherlands and liaised with two other UK offenders to arrange the journey.

Officers believe the crime group had organised at least six other importations before the 2016 seizure.

Jacque Beer, NCA regional head of investigations, said: "Wakeling's arrest was the culmination of the NCA conducting enquiries around the world to capture him.

"Wakeling had links to Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, Canada, Spain and Thailand.

"We pursued these connections and worked with partners from all those countries to help build the intelligence picture around him.

"We have been supported by the public who responded to the media and Crimewatch appeals to provide intelligence all of which has ultimately led to his capture."

Lorry drivers Lesley Muffett, 59, of Campbell Road, Witham, and Stuart Davidson, 65, of Chesham Drive, Basildon, as well as Darren Keane, 34, of Kiln Drive, Milton Keynes, were convicted of their involvement alongside the absent Wakeling after a 12-week trial.

Keane was jailed for nine years, Davidson to eight years and Muffett for six years for conspiring to import drugs.

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