A drug smuggler imported nearly half a tonne of cannabis into the UK – then went on the run for four years.
David Udegbue, 46, ‘masterminded’ dozens of importations of the class B drug between July 2015 and June 2016 with a total weight of 440kg.
He was responsible for arranging the imports which were sent through the fast parcel network from countries including South Africa, Nigeria, Laos, Germany, France and India, Minshull Street Crown Court heard.
Udegbue, of Wigan, then used two delivery drivers Andrae Davis, 47, and Vincent Simpson, 45, to deliver the drugs to non-existent properties, and he would collect them.
The drivers would make a false record of a successful delivery on their computer system, it was said.
The trio were arrested on 22 June 2016.
Their mobile phones showed messages between them relating to delivery addresses on their routes and tracking numbers matching the seized items.
Officers searched their homes and discovered Udegbue had keys to a lock-up where he stored 23 rectangular blocks of herbal cannabis and delivery boxes.
The three were bailed, and Udegbue fled to Nigeria where he remained until July 2020.
In July 2017, Davis, then of Willenhall, Walsall, and Simpson, then of Federation Road, Stoke-on-Trent, admitted conspiracy to import a class B drug and were both jailed for two years and four months.
At the end of last year, Udegbue, formerly of Leigh, Wigan, said he wanted to return to the UK to be closer to his family.
He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import class B drugs and today was jailed for six years and four months.
During the conspiracy period, from July 29 2015 to June 22 2016, Udegbue was said to have played a leading role in the importation of at least 57 packages weighing 440kg, prosecutor Keith Sutton said.
Sixteen packages were seized at the border by law enforcement agencies, with Udegbue receiving 41.
He was said to have no previous convictions.
Mitigating, his defence counsel Jide Lanlehin said: “I ask you to take into account the guilty plea.
“He is a man of previous good character and a family man.
“This will be his first time in custody. “
Sentencing Udegbue, Recorder Mark Ford QC said: “This was a sophisticated conspiracy to import large quantities of cannabis from South Africa, Nigeria and Laos over the protracted period.
“Significant quantities of drugs were imported during the currency of the conspiracy.
“Unsurprisingly the conspiracy generated a significant amount of money.
“The analysis of your bank account found you had received a sum of £49,000 into your account during that period.
“This offending was motivated by a desire for significant financial advantage.
Udegbue, of Cavendish Street, was jailed for six years and four months.
Manchester’s courts are some of the busiest in the country with a vast array of cases heard every week.
To keep up to date with how justice is being served across Greater Manchester subscribe to our free weekly M.E.N. Court News newsletter put together by our court reporters Andrew Bardsley and Amy Walker.
How do I sign up?
- First just click on this link to our newsletter sign-up centre.
- Once you’re there, put your email address where it says at the top, then tick the MEN Court News box. There are other newsletters available if you want them as well.
- When you’ve made your choice, hit Save Changes button at the bottom.
National Crime Agency operations manager Charlie Lee said: “The smuggling route was discovered because of great work by Border Force, who we worked with alongside investigators at Royal Mail.
“And after four years of cheating justice, Udegbue has been convicted.
“This case shows the vital importance of working with partners in law enforcement and industry to defeat criminal threats to the UK.”