A British drug trafficker described as “one of the most feared organised criminals in Europe” has been jailed for 22 years in France.
Robert Dawes, 46, commanded an international network spanning Europe, South America, the Middle East and Asia and his associates are suspected of murders in the UK and abroad.
He was finally brought down after five nations combined forces to investigate the smuggling of 1.3 tonnes of cocaine packed inside 30 suitcases on a flight from Caracas in Venezuela to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport in September 2013.
Dawes was secretly recorded bragging about his involvement in the shipment to a member of a Colombian drugs cartel during a meeting in a Madrid hotel.
He was arrested in November 2015 when armed police raided Dawes’ mansion in Benalmadena, a town in the Costa del Sol, Spain.
Guns, cash and encrypted mobile phones were seized from the property and he was extradited back to France to face trial.
Dawes, from Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, left the UK in 2001 but maintained criminal contacts in the East Midlands while living in the United Arab Emirates and Spain, according to the National Crime Agency (NCA).
His crime group used violence and intimidation and are suspected of shootings and murders in the UK and mainland Europe as well as drug trafficking and money laundering.
Around 80 UK members of his organisation were arrested as a result of the investigation.
National Crime Agency deputy director Matt Horne said: “Dawes was one of the most significant organised criminals in Europe with a network that literally spanned the globe.
“He had connections in South America, the Middle East, Asia and across Europe, which enabled him to orchestrate the movements of huge amounts of class A drugs and money.
“This was often facilitated by the utilisation of corrupt law enforcement, port workers and government officials.
“Despite the fact Dawes has been based overseas for many years, his offending has continued to have an impact on communities in the UK, particularly in Nottingham and the East Midlands.
“Dawes was prepared to use extreme levels of violence in order to further his reputation and take retribution against those who crossed him. Members or associates of his criminal group are known to have been involved in intimidation, shootings and murders.
“Finally bringing him to justice has been an international effort and we have worked closely with partners in France and Spain as part of this investigation.
“Our operations in the UK have also had a dramatic impact in dismantling Dawes’ criminal empire and protecting the public from the drugs and violence they dealt in.”
Dawes, who denied the charges, was convicted of drug trafficking offences alongside four associates including Nathan Wheat from the UK.