54-year-old Richard Wakeling was sentenced to eleven years in prison by a British court in 2018 following the discovery of liquid amphetamine valued at £8 million in drums on a furniture truck trying to board a Channel Tunnel freight train to the country after a being stopped by the UK Border Force.
A convicted British drug trafficker facing an eleven-year sentence at home was taken into custody by heavily armed police in the San Mai district of northern Bangkok on Saturday after 5 years on the run in Thailand and a dogged global pursuit of the fugitive by the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA).
A British fugitive from justice who was the subject of an appeal by the National Crime Agency (NCA) in the United Kingdom in 2019 was arrested by the Royal Thai Police on Saturday afternoon at a garage repair shop in the Sai Mai district of Bangkok on Sukhaphiban 5 Road.
It is understood that 54-year-old Richard Wakeling was on his way to meet a friend in Bangkok’s affluent Ekkamai district when a joint task force of the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) and Crime Suppression Division (CSD) swooped in to arrest him under a warrant that had been issued on January 31st last.
Mastermind behind the importation of £8 million in liquid amphetamine into the United Kingdom in 2016
Wakeling is an international drug trafficker who in 2018 was convicted in his home country for masterminding the importation of £8 million or ฿322 million worth of liquid amphetamine on a freight truck as it attempted to board the railway service that runs between the European continent and the United Kingdom through the Channel Tunnel.
On the 9th of April 2016, the truck which originated in Italy and was ostensibly carrying furniture was intercepted by criminal associates of Mr Wakeling in the municipality of Ternat in Belgium where drums of the drug were concealed before the truck was stopped by the British Border Force as it tried to board the Channel tunnel service to the United Kingdom.
Following his arrest and having been granted bail, Wakeling, on the 5th of January 2018 drove his Audi Q3 car from his home at Juniper Court on Beech Avenue in Brentwood, Essex to Berkshire where he boarded a bus to Glasgow.
Sentenced to eleven years in prison in 2018 after he fled the country via Scotland and Northern Ireland
In Glasgow, he boarded the Stranraer ferry to Belfast in Northern Ireland where he disappeared with his car driven back to his home two days later.
He was later convicted before the crown court under the 1971 UK Misuse of Drugs Act and sentenced to eleven years in prison despite his absence.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) in the United Kingdom which is responsible for tracking down fugitives, investigated Wakeling’s whereabouts in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Canada and Spain before turning their attention to Thailand after a 2019 appeal for information on Mr Wakeling’s whereabouts was aired nationally in the United Kingdom.
He was later placed on the crime agency’s most wanted list.
UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) sought help of Thai authorities and the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) to first locate and then arrest Wakeling
British authorities through the National Crime Agency (NCA) worked with the Thai Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) after their enquiries led them to believe that Mr Wakeling, who has a prosthetic lower leg on his right-hand side, may be in Thailand.
This led to confirmation from the Royal Thai Police that Richard Wakeling was living in the Beachside area of Hua Hin under an assumed identity complete with a forged passport which was seized following his arrest on Saturday.
The arrest was carried out with the assistance of an elite heavily armed police unit.
It is understood that Mr Wakeling is being held in detention and has already waived his legal rights to appeal his deportation back to Britain to serve his prison sentence.
UK crime agency thanks Thai officials and promises to track down anyone who attempts to flee justice
In the aftermath of the successful operation to apprehend Wakeling, the regional manager in Thailand of the National Crime Agency (NCA) thanked Thai authorities.
‘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,’ Mr Doyle explained. ‘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.’
Jacque Beer, the regional head of investigations for the agency, gave some idea of the effort that went into apprehending the UK fugitive who was on the run for 5 years.
‘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.’
About the Author
James Morris is a pename for an international writer based in Bangkok who works on various international news media. He is a sub editor with the Thai Examiner news website since it began in 2015. Son Nguyen is an international writer and news commentator specialising in Thai news and current affairs. He commenced working with the Thai Examiner News Desk in May 2018.