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03rd Jun 2023

One-legged British crime boss jailed after five years on the run

Steve Hopkins

He fled the UK before he could stand trial in 2018

A one-legged British crime boss has been jailed after being extradited from Thailand after five years on the run.

Richard Wakeling, from Brentwood, Essex, was flown back to the UK on Thursday and appeared at Chelmsford Crown Court on Friday.

The 55-year-old was found guilty of attempting to import £8m worth of liquid amphetamine into the UK in 2016 but fled the country in 2018 before he could stand trial. However, he was sentenced to 11 years jail in his absence at Chelmsford Crown Court.

After arrived in the UK he appeared in court where the sentence was enforced.

In February 2023, officers from the Royal Thai Police arrested Wakeling at a Bangkok garage as he went to collect his car after it had been repaired.

At the time of his arrest, Wakeling was in possession of a passport with another identity.

The National Crime Agency began the 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 class B drug.

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

Officers proved the crime group had organised six other importations before the 2016 seizure.

Jacque Beer, NCA regional head of investigations said: “Richard Wakeling thought he could avoid facing justice by leaving the UK. But the hard work of NCA officers – both here in the UK and overseas – and that of our international partners, has put him behind bars for a lengthy prison sentence.

“This case highlights the NCA’s global reach, and that we will do everything we can to ensure those who commit serious and organised crime are held accountable for their actions, no matter how long it takes or how far they flee.”

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