A “violent and dangerous” UK drug gang boss has been sentenced to 14 years in prison after spending six years on the run in Europe.
Simon Dutton, who plotted to flood the North West of England with cocaine shipped in from Spain, was tracked down and arrested by police at a hotel in Greece last December. The 40-year-old admitted conspiracy to supply cocaine and money laundering at a trial at Liverpool Crown Court.
Dutton, from Bolton, went on the run in 2009 after authorities discovered drugs worth £1.5 million (€1.66 million) concealed inside air conditioning units, destined for delivery to his “cocaine factory” in Stockport. Police then raided a series of properties linked to his gang, seizing more drugs, a large quantity of cash, false identity papers and weapons.
After members of Dutton’s gang were arrested, he fled to the continent, managing to stay one step ahead of officers attempting to track him down for more than half a decade. Seventeen of his associates were sentenced to a total of more than 170 years after they were arrested in April 2010, while he travelled around Europe on false documents, setting up fake bank accounts allowing him to launder dirty money as he went.
Dutton was extradited back to the UK from Greece in February, after attempting to convince officers from the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA), Greater Manchester Police (GMP) and Cheshire Constabulary that he was a Romanian national when he was arrested.
GMP Detective Sergeant Colin Shackleton said: “The sentence brings to an end a prolonged multi-agency investigation spanning across Europe. Dutton and his associates led lavish lifestyles living well beyond their means and purchasing expensively furnished houses, high powered cars, jewellery and foreign holidays using the proceeds of their illicit enterprise.”
Dutton was on the NCA’s Operation Captura most wanted list, a rogues’ gallery of British criminals on the run overseas. His arrest meant that 74 out of the 86 fugitives who were on the list have now been caught. Operation Captura has been responsible for the capture and conviction of some of Britain’s most dangerous and notorious gangsters, including Merseyside drug trafficker Scott Hughes, and fellow importer Paul Monk.
Spain in particular has long been a traditional hideout for UK fugitives seeking to evade the attention of the British authorities. However, things became a lot harder for runaway criminals when European Arrest Warrants were introduced back in 2014. The warrants have allowed police forces across the UK to work closely with their colleagues on the continent in their attempts to arrest and prosecute suspects who abscond abroad – a system that could be under threat when Britain leaves the EU.