Curtis Warren, one of Britain’s most notorious drug smugglers, has been ordered to pay £198 million proceeds of his global empire or remain in prison for another 10 years.
A court in Jersey has ordered that the 50-year-old former Interpol target number one should repay sums within 28 days that he is alleged to have squirrelled away from huge cocaine operations from the 1990s.
The Liverpool-born criminal known as ‘Cocky’ moved his centre of operations from Liverpool to Holland in the mid-1990s and had agents, fixers and alliances across the drug-dealing world to become one of the key figures in the global trade.
The sum is said to be one of the biggest ever confiscation orders in Europe and his failure to pay the huge sum would end his hopes of being freed as early as January from prison for a cannabis smuggling plot.
Warren, who had attended the confiscation hearing in Jersey, is expected to be removed swiftly to Belmarsh top security prison in southeast London to resume serving his 13-year sentence.
His legal team had asked for 18 months to pay but the request was rejected by the Jersey legal authorities, said the islands’ solicitor general Howard Sharp. The order was “the result of several years of extensive investigation into the criminal career and financial affairs of one of Europe’s most notorious organised criminals,” according to a statement from the island’s Attorney General.
Warren has denied having any money, but prosecutors claimed that he used front companies and accomplices to hide his assets in property investments and other businesses. He can appeal the ruling but no decision has yet been made.
Mr Warren forged closed links with south American cartels and had markets across the world, according to evidence heard during hearings at a tightly guarded confiscation hearing in Jersey this month.
After a high-profile failure to secure his conviction, he was finally jailed for 13 years in Holland in 1997 after his Amsterdam operations were raided and police seized a huge drugs shipment. His sentence was extended after he killed another inmate in a prison fight.
He was released in 2007 but was out for only a few weeks when he was arrested over a plan to smuggle £1m of cannabis from Holland to Jersey, a pump primer to reassert his position as one of Europe’s top drug barons.
He was jailed for 13 years in 2009 but because of concerns of a prison break from Jersey, he is serving time on mainland Britain.
Steve Baldwin, head of investigations in the northwest for the National Crime Agency, said: "The authorities in Jersey have achieved a tremendous result against Curtis Warren, one of the most prolific drug dealers of a generation. Making sure that criminals do not profit from their crimes is key to making the UK less of a target for organised crime, and we will be relentless in pursuing their money.”