Richard Wright (51), formerly of Chislehurst, Kent, who was extradited from the Netherlands, was sentenced today for conspiring to import Class A drugs via Zeebrugge back in 2004. He escaped before he could be charged but he continued his illegal activities and was arrested by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) officers after he had served a jail term in a Dutch jail.
Mike O’Grady, HM Revenue & Customs Assistant Director Criminal Investigation said:
“Wright fled the UK when circumstances got difficult and he saw we had arrested other gang members associated with the smuggling attempt. It became clear that he had continued his illegal activities in the Netherlands in the intervening period when he was arrested by our partners there for similar drug smuggling offences. Combining our intelligence and expertise for both smuggling cases has protected UK citizens and wider European communities from this habitual organised criminal.”
Under Operation Giftwrapped seven other gang members were jailed in 2006 following the seizure of 29 kilos of cocaine at Hull Docks. The drugs were hidden in a deep concealment underneath solidified bitumen, within one of two pods on the rear of a tarmac truck. The drugs were believed to be destined for organised crime gangs in Derbyshire and London.
Notes for editors
1. Richard John Wright (dob 30/10/60) formerly of Elmstead Avenue, Chislehurst, Kent was arrested by HMRC officers on 18 November 2011. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import Class A drugs on 3 May 2012 at Manchester Crown Court and was sentenced to nine years in prison on 14 June 2012.
2. Whilst on the run Wright used several aliases and continued to trade in drugs and firearms. He was arrested in the Netherlands following a Dutch National Crime Squad surveillance operation as part of Operation Dingo and was only identified from UK fingerprint and photographic records (part of his European Arrest Warrant). Wright was arrested in Amsterdam on 19 September 2007 and charged following the seizure of 39 kilos of cocaine concealed in a car door and six firearms. He was jailed for six and half years in 2008 and after serving his sentence in a Dutch jail he was arrested by HMRC officers under the European Arrest Warrant for Operation Giftwrapped offences and extradited back to the UK last year.
3. Several investigations were all linked to Wright and the extradition in this case took some months to organise and illustrates perfectly the excellent working relationships that exist between HM Revenue & Customs, Greater Manchester Police, the Metropolitan Police and the Dutch law enforcement authorities namely the Dutch Police, Dutch Prison Service and Dutch Prosecutors Office who all work together to tackle organised crime across Europe.
4. Photographs available.
5. This case stems from a HM Customs & Excise investigation which transferred to HM Revenue & Customs when the new department was formed in 2005. More recent major drugs smuggling cases are handled by UK Border Force or the Serious Organised Crime Agency.
6. Follow us on Twitter @hmrcgovuk
Issued by HM Revenue & Customs Press Office
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