NCA - National Crime Agency

06/10/2023 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 06/10/2023 05:03

Operation Venetic: Leeds fugitive returned to UK after Marbella arrest

Operation Venetic: Leeds fugitive returned to UK after Marbella arrest

A man wanted by the National Crime Agency for trafficking weapons and ammunition has been sent back to prison and charged with drugs offences after he was arrested in Spain.

Clinton Blakey, 38, was accompanied on a flight back to the UK on Thursday evening by an extradition team from the NCA's Joint International Crime Centre (JICC).

He was arrested in a vehicle in Marbella, Spain, on 17 May this year following a surveillance operation.

Blakey is suspected of being part of an organised crime group facilitating the movement of firearms and ammunition from Liverpool to Leeds.

He is allegedly linked to a Howa bolt-action rifle and 200 rounds of ammunition seized at a house in Leeds in 2020.

Blakey had been on the run for three years, after failing to turn up at Leeds Magistrates' Court to face the weapons and ammunition charges in 2020.

NCA investigators traced Blakey to Madrid, Spain, in 2021, where he was arrested by Spanish Police. However he fled again after being given bail in Spain.

Yesterday (Friday), at Leeds Magistrates' Court, in addition to the firearms and ammunition charges, he was charged with conspiracy to supply Class A and B drugs. These new charges relate to the same timeframe as the alleged firearms and ammunition offences.

Blakey was immediately put into custody and will serve the remainder of an eight-year sentence from a separate drugs conviction after breaching his licence conditions.

His initial arrest followed that of Paul Shepherd's, a former professional footballer.

Shepherd was convicted for his role storing the weapons and awaits sentencing.

Both men's arrests triggered a number of others across West Yorkshire, Merseyside and the North East, all linked to Operation Venetic - the UK law enforcement response to the takedown of encrypted communications platform EncroChat.

Nigel Coles, NCA Operations Manager, said: "Blakey was arrested after an intelligence led operation between the NCA and Spanish National Police Organised Crime Fugitive Team.

"Following an intense period of research and surveillance he was detained in a vehicle in Marbella and transported back to the UK.

"Firearms and the supply of Class A drugs are inextricably linked and are often the cause of violence and exploitation in communities. Ensuring they are taken out of circulation and those associated with their use face the consequences of their actions are crucial to our work protecting the public."

10 June 2023