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Sunday, 17 June 2012

Man jailed for role in drug smuggling gang

A member of a gang which tried to smuggle £2m worth of cocaine into the UK hidden in a tarmac truck is behind bars after fleeing the country eight years ago. Richard Wright, 51, was jailed for nine years at Manchester crown court on Thursday for his involvement in the attempted smuggling ring, a spokesman for HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) said. Wright, of Chislehurst, Kent, pleaded guilty last month to conspiracy to import class A drugs through Zeebrugge, Belgium, after he was arrested by HMRC officers in November last year. The spokesman said while on the run Wright used several aliases and continued to trade in drugs and firearms. He was arrested by police in Amsterdam in September 2007 and charged with separate offences relating to the seizure of six firearms and 86lb (39kg) of cocaine concealed in a car door after a Dutch police surveillance operation. Wright was identified from UK fingerprints and photographic records, the spokesman added. Wright 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 offences under operation Giftwrapped. He was extradited back to the UK last year. The HMRC spokesman said: "Under operation Giftwrapped seven other gang members were jailed in 2006 following the seizure of 29kg (64lb) 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." Mike O'Grady, HMRC's assistant director of 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."

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