A Nottinghamshire man considered by police to be one of the most influential and feared organised criminals in Europe has been convicted of involvement in a plot to smuggle more than a tonne of cocaine.
Robert Dawes, 46, originally from Sutton-in-Ashfield, was found guilty of drug trafficking offences following a two week trial in Paris. He was sentenced to 22 years in prison on Friday (December 21).
The trial followed a lengthy investigation involving law enforcement in the UK, France, Spain, the Netherlands and South America into a huge 1.3 tonne cocaine seizure at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport in September 2013. The drugs were found in suitcases on a flight from Caracas to Paris.
The seizure was made as a result of intelligence from the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) that people connected to the Dawes crime group had travelled to Venezuela to organise the shipment.
The NCA worked with the French Police Nationale and Spanish Guardia Civil to obtain evidence against Dawes. On covert recordings he was heard bragging about his involvement in the Paris drugs importation and his ability to move large amounts of class A drugs to a member of a Colombian drugs cartel during a meeting in a Madrid hotel.
In November 2015 a crack team of armed police, accompanied by officers from the NCA and French police, raided Dawes’ mansion in Benalmadena and he was arrested. Guns, cash and encrypted mobile phones were seized from the property. He was extradited back to France to face trial.
Dawes was at the centre of a huge multi-national criminal enterprise, supplying drugs and laundering money, with criminal connections across the globe, in Europe, South America, the Middle East and Asia.
He left the UK in 2001 and has since lived in the United Arab Emirates and Spain, but the NCA said he maintained criminal contacts back in the East Midlands, particularly in the Nottingham area.
His network used high levels of violence and intimidation, and associates of Dawes and his crime group are suspected of involvement a number of shootings and murders in the UK and mainland Europe.
Following the cocaine bust in Paris in 2013 the NCA worked with agencies across the UK, including the East Midlands Special Operations Unit (EMSOU) and Nottinghamshire Police to target members of Dawes’ group active in the UK. Around 80 people who were part of or had links to the Dawes group were arrested.
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.
“But our operations in the UK, alongside EMSOU and Nottinghamshire Police have also had a dramatic impact in dismantling Dawes’ criminal empire and protecting the public from the drugs and violence they dealt in.”