Financial backer of drug gang is jailed

John Halliday.
John Halliday.
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A wakefield man who provided financial backing to a criminal network which imported £13 million of illegal synthetic drugs into the country from India and China has been jailed for six years.

Paul Arabskyj was one of the key players in a group of “highly sophisticated” criminal conspirators from West Yorkshire who smuggled in hundreds of kilograms of drugs previously classified as legal highs. He had earlier been found guilty of conspiracy to contravene the Customs and Excise Act.

Pritpaul Matharu, from Beeston, one of 16 people sentenced yesterday at Leeds Crown Court, was given a 12 month term suspended for 12 months and 150 hours community service after earlier being found guilty of conspiracy to supply a controlled drug.

Ringleader John Halliday from Bingley set up the smuggling operation in 2010 when the ‘legal highs’ he had been selling as a sideline to his main body-building supplement business were classified as Class B substances, making it illegal to import, sell, or possess them.

The drugs were imported into this country from China and India, through Greece and Germany. Complex financial arrangements were put in place to disguise the passage of money from the UK to China to fund their purchase.

Police say a network of recipients was created in the UK, meaning postal addresses were provided to receive the drugs.

While Halliday remained in overall control, Arabskyj provided finance and banking for the scheme. Neil Hollis of West Yorkshire Police said: “The drugs importation would not have been able to take place on the scale that it did without the financial assistance of Arabskyj.”

Police are now hunting Halliday and issued a warrant for his arrest in October after he failed to attend a scheduled court appearance.

His last known address is in Harrogate, but he is thought to have left the country.He was sentenced to ten years in jail in his absence for conspiracy to supply a controlled drug and conspiracy to contravene the Customs and Excise Act.

All 16 defendants were yestesentenced to a total of more than 40 years in jail, though several received community terms and some sentences were suspended.

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