A drug dealer responsible for organising a major supply chain spanning the UK, Europe and South America has been jailed for 24 years.
Dion Lee, 36, formerly of Lancaster, was arrested in Lagos, Nigeria, in September 2011 under the power of an international arrest warrant after three years on the run from police.
His extradition in May 2012 was the first ever extradition of a UK citizen from Nigeria.
Appearing at Liverpool Crown Court on Monday he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply class A drugs; conspiracy to supply cannabis; conspiracy to transfer weapons and conspiracy to transfer ammunition.
He was then jailed for 24 years. Lee’s arrest was the 28th and final arrest in connection with Operation Greengage, a police investigation into the importation of cocaine, cannabis, firearms and ammunition into the United Kingdom.
The operation was led by the force’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit.
The main subject of the initial investigation was Ivan Hue, of Robin Street, Preston, who was jailed for 24 years in 2009.
Further inquiries uncovered a network of couriers transporting funds to Amsterdam to pay for drugs that would then be imported into the UK.
During numerous trips between the two countries, drugs and firearms were smuggled into the UK via specially modified vehicles.
The cocaine was sourced direct from Bolivia and transported to the UK via Argentina and the European mainland. Lee was the mastermind behind the scheme, heading up the Netherlands-based organised crime gang and linking in with the gangs in Preston and Scotland.
Twenty-seven other gang members from Preston, Lancaster, Leeds, Surrey and Poland have been jailed for a total of 348 years. Lee’s sentence brings this total to 372.
The gang smuggled firearms and large quantities of cocaine in hidden compartments in vehicles and some of the defendants acted as human couriers or drugs mules to bring the cocaine into the country.
Lee was one of the senior figures in the conspiracy and organised shipments of drugs and firearms mainly through the vehicle smuggling route from his base in the Netherlands.
He fled to Nigeria in an attempt to evade capture and a European warrant was issued for his arrest.
Joanne Cunliffe, from the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “Dion Lee was one of the main organisers of this large drugs operation. His guilty plea towards all charges today is the final piece in the complex jigsaw of this case.”