A DRUGS baron who continued to run his lucrative cocaine business while on the run in Thailand has had another 14 years added to his sentence.

Jonathan Moorby was involved in running a ‘commercial’ operation flooding the region with the Class A drug after having it transported across the Pennines from another organised crime group working out of Liverpool.

The 51-year-old was sentenced to 15 years in prison in in 2014 for supplying cocaine and amphetamine. He fled the country before the trial and was convicted and sentenced in his absence.

Teesside Crown Court heard how the conviction didn’t deter him form continuing to run his drug empire from South East Asia.

The Northern Echo: Jonathan Moorby when he was arrested in ThailandJonathan Moorby when he was arrested in Thailand

By August 2015 he was back in the game using encrypted handsets to distribute the orders to his team based in and around Stockton.

Kama Melly QC, prosecuting, said Moorby was ‘at the head of a Teesside organised crime group’ which was moving multiple kilos of cocaine into the area.

She said the operation, between August 31 and October 2015, was conducted while he was on the run in Thailand with Lance Kennedy’s gang operating out of Liverpool.

Members of his team were jailed in 2019 after being caught using helicopters to fly millions of pounds worth of cocaine into the country using remote holiday rentals as secret drop offs for the drugs.

Miss Melly added: “The defendant used his connections to the Lance Kennedy crime group to source wholescale quantities of drugs and then in turn supply it across the North East.

“It has always been out case that Mr Moorby is at the head of the Teesside organised crime group. It is indicative of his standing that he maintained control of that group from Thailand.”

Telephone records showed that there were at least 42 trips between the different gangs on Teesside and Merseyside during that period.

Moorby, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine on the day his trial was due to start, was extradited from Thailand in 2019.

The Northern Echo: The island of Koh Samui, Thailand, where Jonathan Moorby was hiding outThe island of Koh Samui, Thailand, where Jonathan Moorby was hiding out

Nicholas Lumley QC said: “We accept that six weeks is not a momentary involvement in the commercial supply of cocaine but there must be a distinction for the amount of time he was involved.”

He added: “Many of those features mentioned are those features which show he is playing a leading role, who is directing the organisation and so on.”

Judge Howard Crowson added 14 years to Moorby’s ongoing prison sentence.

He said: “Although it was your business and you directed operations, you operated your business from self-imposed exile in Thailand using encrypted handheld devices and requiring your team in the UK to send proceeds to you.

“You had gone to Thailand to avoid trial for similar offences and by December 2014, 9 months before this indictment period you had been tried and convicted in your absence and received a sentence of 15 years imprisonment.

“It is against that background, knowing the consequences for anyone convicted of an offence of this gravity that you started again at the end of August 2015 with a new trade.

“The rewards were such that you and your group persisted with your trade even after setbacks in which drugs were seized and personnel were lost, you simply rearranged your team and gave them different responsibilities.”