Gang 'plotted to flood Jersey with cannabis'

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The Independent Online

Six men plotted to flood the island of Jersey with £1m worth of cannabis, a court heard today.

Curtis Warren, from Liverpool, was the man with the "clout and influence" to lead the conspiracy, the Royal Court in St Helier was told.

The prosecution claims Warren, 46, was the link between drug sellers in Holland and the Jersey-based gang, which is accused of planning to buy and import 180kg of cannabis in June and July 2007.

The gang allegedly aimed to buy the drugs in Amsterdam and transport the consignment by car to the coast of Normandy, France, where it would be placed on a boat to Jersey.

Crown Advocate Howard Sharp told the jury: "Warren was the senior figure, he was the man at the top who pulled the strings.

"He had considerable clout and influence and we say he orchestrated this conspiracy.

"He was the crucial link between the sale in Holland and the purchasers in Jersey."

Mr Sharp said much of the evidence before the jury was obtained through covert surveillance of Warren and others by the States of Jersey Police.

Officers followed the gang and made covert tape recordings of their conversations and phone calls.

Mr Sharp told the jury they will hear one conversation where Warren allegedly described the plot as "just a little starter".

Warren is accused along with Jonathan Welsh, 43, who is originally from Liverpool but has lived in St Helier for some years.

Mr Sharp said Welsh, an "old friend and right hand man" of Warren, was the "willing purchaser" of the cannabis and the "hub of the conspiracy".

Welsh, Mr Sharp told the jury, travelled from Jersey to Amsterdam to meet Warren's Dutch associates and negotiate the purchase and transfer of the cannabis.

Prosecutors said it was Welsh who recruited the remaining members of the gang, including Glasgow-born James O'Brien, who will be 45 tomorrow, and who has a previous conviction for importing cannabis into Jersey by boat.

Mr Sharp said: "O'Brien was invited by Welsh to commit the exact same crime again and we say he willingly did so."

He added that it was Welsh who was planning to fund much of the purchase of the drugs with cash provided by co-defendants Jason Woodward, 22, of Dartford, Kent, Paul Hunt, 27, of Jersey, and Oliver Lucas, 23, also from Jersey.

Mr Sharp said: "It was intended they would provide some 18,000 euros (£16,000) to Warren's Dutch associates as part payment for the cannabis.

"They were also to be involved in transporting the drugs back to Jersey."

He told the jury of seven men and five women: "When you hear the evidence you will see that Warren has a light touch.

"You won't see him handling the drugs or shipping bags of cash around. He leaves such chores, the truly risky part of the drugs business, to others lower down the food chain.

"Warren was cautious. He often remained in the shadows, rarely stepping into the light.

"He no doubt thought that he had kept a safe distance from the events but, you will see, he was there and pulling the strings."

All six deny conspiracy to import a controlled drug.

The month-long trial, before Sir Richard Tucker, is taking place amid unprecedented security on the Channel Island.

Armed police are guarding the Royal Court and visitors are being thoroughly searched when entering the building.

Mr Sharp told the jury the street value of drugs in Jersey was much higher than in the UK and Holland.

He said: "A kg of cannabis can be bought in Holland for a few hundred pounds. In Jersey, a kg of the same drug sells for several thousand pounds.

"Had those drugs arrived in Jersey they would have been sold for a spectacular profit."

He said Warren used public phone boxes to avoid detection but surveillance showed he was in contact with his Dutch associates.

Mr Sharp said when Welsh arrived in Amsterdam in July 2007, he met Mohammed Liazid, described as Warren's "right hand man in Holland" and Welsh's "principal point of contact in Holland".

He said the meeting took place in a hire car late at night in a street in central Amsterdam.

The conversation they had was recorded by police, Mr Sharp said, and established that Welsh was planning to import the cannabis by boat into Jersey.

He said: "Put simply, we have Welsh on tape discussing importing a commercial quantity of cannabis into Jersey.

"As a matter of common sense, this cannot be a theoretical or fanciful discussion.

"Welsh had just crossed Europe to hold this conversation in a dark street late at night in downtown Amsterdam.

"It is plain it was a serious conversation with a very serious intent."