Most wanted crime boss arrested in Thailand after fleeing before Essex trial

Credit: National Crime Agency

Wakeling, who was convicted of organising drug smuggling in 2018, was tracked down to Thailand and arrested.
Richard Wakeling, who was convicted of organising drug smuggling in 2018, was tracked down to Thailand and arrested. Credit: National Crime Agency

A most wanted crime boss has been arrested in Thailand five years after fleeing the UK the day before going to trial.

Richard Wakeling, 55, of Brentwood in Essex, left the country in January 2018 before he was due to stand trial for 12 weeks for trying to import £8m worth of amphetamine in 2016.

In his absence the worldwide crime boss was convicted and jailed for 11 years, resulting in a dramatic arrest in Bangkok on Friday.

Wakeling had gone to collect his car from a garage after repairs, when the Royal Thai Police arrested him.

The 55-year-old, who has a prosthetic lower right leg, had been put on the National Crime Agency's Most Wanted list.

Richard Wakeling was arrested on Friday, five years after fleeing the UK before a trial in Essex. Credit: National Crime Agency

When arrested, 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 and extradition proceedings are underway.

David Coyle, NCA regional manager for Thailand, 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."

The crime boss was jailed for 11 years in his absence in 2018. Credit: National Crime Agency

The NCA began its investigation into Wakeling’s organised crime group after Border Force colleagues stopped a truck boarding a Channel Tunnel train on 9 April 2016.

The truck contained plastic drums carrying the drugs.

The importation was set up by Wakeling.

Jacque Beer, NCA regional head of investigations, said: “Wakeling’s arrest was the culmination of the NCA conducting enquiries around the world to capture him.

“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.”

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