DRUGS gang boss Anthony Cullen planned to flee to Portugal before he was arrested, a court has heard.

The 32-year-old, from Padgate, was the ‘controller and director’ of a cocaine racket that personally earned him hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Members of the ring were jailed for a total of 185 years at Liverpool Crown Court in January 2019 after more than 50kg of cocaine and seven guns were seized from the gang by police.

Warrington Guardian:

Guns and ammunition seized from the gang by police

But Cullen was brought back before the court last week, where he was handed a serious crime prevention order.

During proceedings, the court heard that the drugs kingpin ‘had the resources and plan to fly abroad to Portugal when police intervened’ in their operation.

While he did not manage to avoid arrest during a series of raids in early 2018, Cullen’s twin brother Leon – who is also suspected of playing a major role in the gang – managed to escape and successfully fled the country.

But ‘Warrington’s most wanted man’ was detained in Dubai on an international arrested warrant earlier this month after nearly two years on the run.

He is currently awaiting extradition proceedings in order to bring him back to the UK.

Warrington Guardian:

Leon Cullen

The order imposed on Anthony Cullen during the hearing on Monday, January 6, banned him from associating with the 18 men he was sentenced alongside as part of Operation Samurai, as well as from carrying more than £1,000 in cash.

He must also notify Cheshire Police of any vehicle he owns or uses, as well as any communications devices he owns.

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Cullen will only be allowed to own two mobile phones and two computers at any one time, and these devices must not be encrypted.

The force must also be notified of his home address, employment or business and bank accounts – of which he is only allowed two, and may not use anyone else’s accounts.

Cullen, who appeared in court via video link to HMP Full Sutton near York, is currently serving 27 years behind bars, and the order will last for five years after his release from prison.

A Proceeds of Crime Act hearing previously heard that he made a total of £378,139 from his involvement in the large-scale supply of cocaine.

And money to this value will be seized from him ‘if he comes into any significant and legitimate money’ in the future.

But judge Gary Woodhall threw out a similar application to impose a serious crime prevention order on ‘highly trusted’ gang member Christopher Houghton, of Handley Drive in Padgate.

Warrington Guardian:

Christopher Houghton

The 41-year-old, who appeared in court via video link to HMP Frankland in Durham, was described as being the ‘armourer of a large stash of weapons’ for the organised crime group – in which he played a ‘troubleshooting’ role.

Cullen and Houghton, who was jailed for 20 years, could be heard having a short conversation over the video link between prisons before the hearing started.

During the chat, Cullen revealed that he is working as a cleaner in the category A prison and encouraged his co-conspirator to seek a transfer to the jail he is currently residing in.

He told Houghton: “We’ve got five seconds, we’ll make the most of it’

“Everything good with the kids?

“You want to get back down here, it’s too far where you are – it’s alright here.

“Have you met little Tucker yet, Newcastle kid?

“I’m eating loads, I’m training hard at the minute.”

The class A conspiracy run by Cullen was so sophisticated that it modelled itself on a legitimate business, paying monthly wages to its 19 ‘employees’.

Bonuses of up to £10,000 and other incentives were also offered to criminals willing to get involved in the murky underworld of supplying cocaine.