Jason Waterman was wanted in connection with the importation attempt which led to the recovery of around seven kilos of the drug, worth around £1.2m, at Bagby airfield near Thirsk in North Yorkshire in October 2015.
The 33-year-old from Watford in Hertfordshire, whose nicknames include Jugs and Jumbo, had been on board an aircraft that had just flown into the airfield.
As Border Force officers arrived on the scene to carry out checks on the plane he ran off, leaving a suitcase containing the drugs in a nearby hedgerow.
National Crime Agency (NCA) investigators began to track him down, and following a series of media appeals by the NCA including on the BBC’s Crimewatch Roadshow, he finally handed himself in to police in Gibraltar, dripping wet and carry a bag of wet clothes in June 2017.
He later told officers he had swum from Spain rather than come across the land border.
Waterman was extradited back to the UK shortly afterwards to face drug importation charges, and on what would have been the first day of his trial at Bradford Crown Court on Monday December 18 he pleaded guilty. A judge sentenced him to seven years and two months in prison.
NCA Branch Commander David Norris said: “Waterman fled the UK for more than a year and a half in an attempt to avoid this moment, so it gives us great satisfaction to see him behind bars.
“It demonstrates that the NCA does not give up the hunt, and to everyone else feeling the stress of being on the run I would say we are patient people, we keep the pressure on, and we never stop looking for you.
“This investigation drew on the combined skills of the NCA, North Yorkshire Police, Border Force and overseas partners. Working together we are determined to do all we can to disrupt and prosecute those involved in trafficking and organised crime.”
North Yorkshire Police’s ports officer, Detective Constable Peter Wakefield said: “This is another really good example of joint working at the borders and highlights another success involving North Yorkshire Police ports.
“Criminals may think that they’re more likely to go undetected if they use smaller ports, but nothing could be further from the truth.
“As Waterman’s sentence shows, not only will we detect and disrupt organised crime in North Yorkshire, we’ll also help to pursue the suspects and bring them to justice, regardless of where they are.”
Following a trial in March 2017 the aircraft pilot who had flown Waterman to the UK from the Netherlands was found not guilty of importation offences.
In February last year, three members of a drug-smuggling crime group who flew millions of pounds worth of cocaine into the UK were jailed for 66 years after North Yorkshire Police worked with the National Crime Agency and UK Border Force to investigate a light aircraft carrying drugs into Breighton Aerodrome near Selby.
The plane and a Porsche Cayenne parked next to it contained 34 kilos of cocaine with a potential street value of £5 million when officers swooped.
Pilot Andrew Wright, 52, from Barlow, Selby, was among those jailed at the Old Bailey. He was sentenced to 19 years.