A DRUGS trafficker who spent four years on the run has been jailed after handing himself in - and has admitted importing nearly half a tonne of cannabis into the UK.

David Udegbue, 45, masterminded dozens of importations between July 2015 and June 2016 - with a total weight of 440kg.

He was responsible for arranging the importations which were sent through the fast parcel network from countries including South Africa, Nigeria, Laos, Germany, France and India.

Udegbue then used two corrupt delivery drivers Andrae Davis, 47, and Vincent Simpson, 45, to deliver the drugs to non-existent properties, and he would collect them. The drivers would make a false record of a successful delivery on their computer system.

During the conspiracy period, Udegbue played a leading role in the importation of at least 57 packages weighing 440kg.

Sixteen packages were seized at the border, with Udegbue receiving 41.

The trio were arrested in June 2016. Their mobile phones showed messages between them relating to delivery addresses on their routes and tracking numbers matching the seized items.

Officers searched their homes and discovered Udegbue had keys to a lock-up where he stored 23 rectangular blocks of herbal cannabis and delivery boxes.

The three were bailed, and Udegbue fled to Nigeria.

At the end of last year, Udegbue, who before absconding used to live on Cavendish Street, Leigh, said he wanted to return to the UK to be closer to his family.

He admitted the same charge at Manchester Crown Court and today was jailed for six years and four months.

National Crime Agency operations manager Charlie Lee said: “The smuggling route was discovered because of great work by Border Force, who we worked with alongside investigators at Royal Mail. After four years of cheating justice, Udegbue has been convicted.

"This case shows the vital importance of working with partners in law enforcement and industry to defeat criminal threats to the UK."

In July 2017, Udegbue's co-conspirators Davis, then of Willenhall, Walsall, and Simpson, then of Federation Road, Stoke-on-Trent, admitted to importing a class B drug - and were both jailed for two years and four months.