A fugitive wanted by the National Crime Agency in connection with drug smuggling and distribution in the UK has been arrested in southern Spain.
Spanish national Jesus Benito Fernandez-Asta, 55, was detained by officers from the Spanish National Police, working on behalf of the NCA, at a residential address in the city of Almeria on Thursday 28 December. He will now appear in court as extradition proceedings begin.
Fernandez-Asta is wanted over the attempted importation of cannabis worth over £100,000 and class A and B drug dealing offences.
He is suspected of orchestrating a cannabis shipment in a lorry from Spain before flying over to the UK to take receipt at the other end.
However, the blocks of resin were found in the pallet locker of the HGV by Border Force officers carrying out checks on freight at the Channel Tunnel terminal in Coquelles in November 2020.
NCA investigators were able to link Fernandez-Asta to the importation and tracked him down to an address in Donald Hall Road, Brighton, where he was arrested in August 2021.
During a search of the property further quantities of cannabis and cocaine were discovered, suggesting his involvement in drug distribution. Financial records indicating payments to contacts in Spain were also found.
Fernandez-Asta was charged with conspiring to import class B drugs, being concerned in the supply of class A and B drugs and money laundering.
He was bailed and was due to stand trial at Lewes Crown Court in July 2023 but failed to attend and was listed as wanted. A warrant for his arrest was issued.
The NCA and CPS will now work with the Spanish authorities to facilitate his extradition back to the UK.
NCA Senior Investigating Officer Dean Wallbank said: “Fernandez-Asta stands accused of significant drug importation and distribution offences.
“I’m delighted he has been tracked down, and I’m grateful to our Spanish partners for their work in ensuring his arrest. The process of returning him to the UK to face the courts here is now underway.
“This case once again demonstrates that NCA has international reach, and no matter where fugitives try to hide we have the determination and ability to hunt them down and bring them back to face justice.”
29 December 2023