(London Post -PR NCA)The mastermind behind an international drugs conspiracy who fled to Spain in a Bentley Continental as his criminal empire collapsed has been jailed.
John Clark, aged 36, from Lancashire, enjoyed a millionaire lifestyle funded by the importation of vast quantities of cocaine, heroin and ampehetamine.
Clark moved from his bolthole in Tenerife to Morocco where he was arrested and extradited back to the UK.
He was sentenced to 25 years at Bolton Crown Court today after pleading guilty at an earlier hearing to money laundering and drug offences.
Clark was brought to justice as a result of joint working between the National Crime Agency and the Serious Organised Crime Group of Greater Manchester Police.
The investigation centred on his organised crime group which he ran from his £1.2million farmhouse in Waterfoot.
Clark’s first encounter with the closing law enforcement net was in May 2012 when his home was raided as part of an NCA probe into members of a Birmingham-based money laundering gang. They had been transferring money overseas for Clark and other UK drug traffickers.
During one surveillance operation NCA investigators watched Clark hand over a bag containing £113,860 to one of the money launderers at a service station near Junction 19 M6. The cash was later seized.
Investigators found £77,000 in two shoeboxes in an office at his home. Documents recovered showed he had an impressive property portfolio across Europe, and had purchased numerous cars including an Audi R8 Spyder worth £120,000.
They also found a coded ledger that proved during a nine-month period his crime group had moved £11million worth of drugs.
He was charged with money laundering and bailed but fled the country after GMP officers arrested several members of his crime group and seized huge quantities of drugs.
Clark drove his Bentley through the Eurotunnel and went to ground in Tenerife before moving to Morocco. The NCA tracked him down and he was arrested by the Moroccan authorities in June 2013.
Jim Cook, lead investigator for the National Crime Agency, said: “Drug traffickers need to launder their profits but doing it can be their Achilles heel. By getting between them and their money they are unable to fund their lifestyles or invest in further drug deals.
“After we seized his drug money and raided his home, Clark realised the law enforcement net was tightening. He went on the run but we were able to track him down and return him to the UK to face justice.
“Clark’s lavish lifestyle is over. Not only has he been deprived off his freedom, he now faces losing his criminal assets. We have restrained nine properties so far including his luxury multi-million pound family home. Our financial investigation is ongoing.”
Detective Inspector Lee Griffin, of GMP’s Serious Organised Crime Group, said: “Clark sat at the head of a sophisticated, well-connected network of drugs dealers, the tentacles of which reached across the UK and into mainland Europe.
“Most of the gang enjoyed the trappings of wealth that most hard-working people can only imagine, but they would have known from the start that even the biggest empires can crumble.
“The scale of their operation makes for truly alarming reading – £11million worth of deals in just nine months, a number of properties across Europe and the types of cars associated with international playboys.
“However, all of this was built on selling harmful, illegal drugs on the streets of the UK. The corroding effects of class A drugs on families, communities and the wider society are well documented, and each and every one of these people knew it.
“I hope today’s result, which is the culmination of excellent joint working between ourselves and the NCA, sends out a significant message to anyone involved in supplying drugs. No matter how sophisticated you think you are, justice will always catch up with you in the end.”
Eight members of Clark’s crime group received jail sentences totalling over 87 years in October 2013.