Ten-year prison sentence for drug dealer who fled to Spain and Mexico

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

A drug dealer who fled the UK to Spain and Mexico to try and escape justice has been jailed. 

Christopher Ashurst was involved in the supply of huge amounts of cocaine, heroin, ketamine and cannabis valued at hundreds of thousands of pounds.

He was identified as part of Operation Venetic - the ongoing national fight against organised crime following the takedown of a bespoke encrypted global communication service used exclusively by criminals.

Encrochat was one of the largest providers of encrypted communications and offered a secure mobile phone instant messaging service, but an international law enforcement team cracked the company’s encryption.

The Encrochat servers were taken down in 2020 following an investigation led by the National Crime Agency and Lancashire Constabulary, along with the rest of UK law enforcement, continues to target those involved.

Ashurst moved to Spain and spent three years on the run there and in Mexico before he was found and arrested in Amsterdam and returned to the UK.

The 36-year-old, formerly of Blackburn, was jailed for ten years at Preston Crown Court on Monday (September 11) for being concerned in the supply of heroin, cocaine, ketamine and cannabis.

Det Sgt Stu Peall, of East Police, said: “Like many others who tried to hide behind Encrochat Ashurst mistakenly thought he could traffic drugs with impunity, under the radar of the police, but how wrong he was. Even after he fled the country, we remained determined to find him and bring him back to the UK to face justice. 

“We will continue to take the fight to criminals and ensure there are no safe spaces in Lancashire for serious and organised criminals, including those who seek to profit from a class A drugs trade which fuels violence and exploitation in our communities.”

“I hope this sentence sends a clear message to the public of our determination to rid communities of this sort of criminalisation and to make our streets safer.”

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