British crime boss arrested after five years on the run had been living in Hua Hin

0
5123
Image: National Crime Agency

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

Richard Wakeling, 55, of Brentwood, Essex, 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.

Yesterday (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 prison 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.

“This is another example of an offender being caught because of the NCA’s global reach and strong relationships with international partners.”

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

He left his home in Juniper Court, Beech Avenue, at 9.48am on Friday January 5. He drove off in his car, a white Audi Q3.

The car was in the Iver area later that day before he caught a bus from Heathrow to Glasgow. The following day he took a ferry from Stranraer to Belfast.

A week later on Saturday January 13, Wakeling’s car was driven back to his home address.

The NCA 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.”

comments