Brentwood crime boss arrested in Thailand after five years on the run

An organised crime boss who has been on the run for five years has been arrested in Thailand.

Richard Wakeling, 55, of Brentwood, fled the country in January 2018 on the eve of a 12-week trial.

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

Wakeling, who has a prosthetic lower right leg, was placed on the National Crime Agency’s Most Wanted list and appeals were issued for information to help trace him.

On Friday, officers from the Royal Thai Police arrested him at a Bangkok garage as he went to collect his car after repairs. He was 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 underway.

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 sentence.

“I thank the prosecutors of the Attorney General’s office, the Royal Thai Police and the Commissioner of the Central Investigations Bureau for their extensive work helping us identify and arrest Wakeling.

“With our partners at home and abroad we are committed to doing everything possible to find those who have fled justice in the UK.”

The NCA began its investigation into Wakeling’s organised crime group after Border Force colleagues stopped a truck boarding a Channel Tunnel train on April 9, 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 seizure.

Jacque Beer, NCA regional head of investigations, said: “Wakeling’s arrest was the culmination of the NCA conducting enquiries around the world.”

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Mick Ferris

Editor Email: mickferris@yellowad.co.uk