Witham man jailed for six years for smuggling £8m worth of drugs
- Credit: Archant
A man from Witham is among four criminals sentenced to a total of 34 years behind bars after smuggling £8million worth of liquid amphetamine into the UK.
Leslie Muffett, 59, of Campbell Road, was driving the lorry that carried the class B drug, commonly known as speed, across the border from Belgium in 2016.
He was found guilty of conspiring to import drugs at Chelmsford Crown Court on Friday, April 6, and sentenced to six years in prison.
Officers began their investigation after plastic drums carrying the liquefied drugs were discovered by border police on Muffett’s truck as he attempted to board a train through the Channel Tunnel on April 9, 2016.
Muffett was transporting furniture from Italy, but stopped at Ternat in Belgium where he was directed to collect the drugs. Evidence suggested this was not the first time he had been involved in a smuggling operation.
Fellow smugglers Darren Keane, 34, from Milton Keynes, and Stuart Davidson, 65, from Basildon, were found guilty of the same offence – and sentenced to nine and eight years respectively.
National Crime Agency (NCA) senior investigating officer, Paul Green, said: “These men were involved in a serous conspiracy to import a large quantity of dangerous drugs. We know they had links into other organised crime gangs in Europe and it is almost certain that this wasn’t the first time they had done it.”
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The man found to be the ringleader of the operation, Richard Wakeling, disappeared shortly before the trial.
The 51-year-old from Brentwood was also found guilty of conspiring to import drugs, and was sentenced in his absence to 11 years in prison.
Of the search for Wakeling, Paul Green added: “We strongly suspect that Wakeling fled abroad, possibly to Thailand were he has strong family links.
“But it is likely there are people here in the UK who hold clues about his movements after he arrived in Belfast on January 6, and I’d appeal for anyone with information to come forward.
“He has a prosthetic leg and needs regular medical treatment.
“The NCA has an international reach and he should know distance isn’t a barrier to us finding him. We are determined he will be returned to the UK to serve his sentence. Until we find him, he’ll spend every day looking over his shoulder.”