British drug boss who tried to import £8m of drugs into UK arrested in Thailand after five years on the run

11 February 2023, 14:23 | Updated: 11 February 2023, 14:34

Richard Wakeling was one of the UK's most wanted fugitives for five years
Richard Wakeling was one of the UK's most wanted fugitives for five years. Picture: National Crime Agency
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

One of the UK's most-wanted fugitives has been arrested in Thailand after spending five years on the run.

Richard Wakeling, Essex, became of the country's most-wanted criminals after he tried to import £8 million of liquid amphetamine into the UK in April 2016.

Wakeling, 55, fled the country in 2018 before the start of his 12-week trial. He was sentenced to 11 years in his absence at on April 9 of that year.

On Friday, Wakeling was arrested at a Bangkok garage where he had gone to pick up his car after repairs, according to the National Crime Agency (NCA).

Richard Wakeling
Richard Wakeling. Picture: National Crime Agency

Wakeling had been living in the beachside town of Hua Hin and was in possession of a passport in another identity. He remains in custody while authorities work to extradite him back to the UK.

David Coyle, NCA regional manager for Thailand, said Wakeling's capture was "another example of an offender being caught" by the agency working "relentlessly" with international partners.

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Mr Coyle 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."

Richard Wakeling was arrested after five years on the run
Richard Wakeling was arrested after five years on the run. Picture: National Crime Agency

Jacque Beer, NCA regional head of investigations, added that the public's response to appeals for information over Wakeling's disappearance had helped to track him down.

"Wakeling's arrest was the culmination of the NCA conducting inquiries around the world to capture him," he said. "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."

Wakeling, who has one leg, went on the run in 2018
Wakeling, who has one leg, went on the run in 2018. Picture: National Crime Agency

The NCA launched an investigation into Wakeling's organised crime group after Border Force stopped a truck loaded with plastic drums full of drugs from boarding a Channel Tunnel train on April 9, 2016.

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

He drove a white Audi Q3 from his home in Juniper Court on Beech Avenue, Brentwood, on January 5, 2018, towards Berkshire before catching a bus from Heathrow to Glasgow, and then taking a ferry from Stranraer to Belfast.

A week later, his car, which he had left in Iver, near Slough, was driven back to his home address.

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