A 16-strong West Yorkshire gang have been jailed for a total more than 40 years for importing £13m worth of drugs into the UK from India and China.
Paul Arabskyj from Wakefield provided the financial backing for the complex and sophisticated operation which involved smuggling hundreds of kilograms of drugs previously classed as legal highs.
He was jailed for six years after being found guilty of conspiracy to contravene the Customs and Excise Act.
The ringleader, John Halliday, started selling legal highs before they were classified as illegal drugs in 2010 alongside his main business of body building supplements.
The drugs were imported from India and China, through Greece and Germany to the UK where a complex network of postal addresses was set up to receive the drugs.
Halliday, is still on the run and is thought to have left the country.
He was sentenced to ten years in jail in his absence for conspiracy to supply a controlled drug and conspiracy to contravene the Customs and Excise Act.
Detective Inspector Neil Hollis, of West Yorkshire Police’s Crime Division, said: “Halliday took the decision in 2010 to engage in illegal activity and what has resulted is a multi-million pound drug smuggling operation involving a number of his associates.
“This case should send a clear warning to those involved in the supply of previously so-called ‘legal highs’. These synthetically produced drugs, such as the types seen in this investigation, are illegal Class B drugs and their distribution and sale when prosecuted will result in lengthy custodial sentences.
“The drugs importation would not have been able to take place on the scale that it did without the financial assistance of Arabskyj. These men were professionals in mortgage consultancy and accountancy and I hope that this case demonstrates that we will pursue those of all walks of life who are involved in money laundering offences.
“This organised crime group have profited significantly from the supply of illegal drugs and currently own a number of high-end vehicles and properties. We will be pursuing confiscation proceedings against these individuals and sending the message that crime does not pay.”
Anyone with information about Halliday’s whereabouts should call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.