Curtis Warren: Drug dealer ordered to pay £198m
- 5 November 2013
- From the section Jersey
Convicted drug dealer Curtis Warren has been given 28 days to pay £198m or face a further 10 years in jail.
The 50-year-old from Liverpool was jailed for 13 years in 2009 for plotting to smuggle cannabis with a street value of £1m into Jersey.
Warren is serving his sentence in the UK but was in Jersey for a confiscation hearing at the Royal Court.
Jersey's law officers have said this is one of the largest confiscation orders ever issued in Europe.
Through the 1980s and 1990s, 'Cocky' Warren, as he became known, worked his way up the criminal ladder, becoming one of the wealthiest underground figures ever.
He even made his way on to the Sunday Times Rich List in the 1990s, with his income from drug deals estimated at the time to be £80m.
In 1996, a plan to import cocaine through the Netherlands hidden in lead ingots landed him in a Dutch jail.
Police believe that he continued to run his business from his prison cell and may, even then, have been planning a move on the drugs market in Jersey.
Three weeks after his early release in 2007, undercover officers who had been watching a man called Jonathan Welsh spotted him with a new arrival at Jersey airport. It was Warren.
In the weeks that followed Operation Flare monitored Warren, Welsh, and four other men.
They were secretly tracked around Jersey and hundreds of calls from phone boxes and mobiles were recorded to and from a contact in Amsterdam.
In a move which brought calls for the case to be dismissed, officers from Jersey's drugs squad even bugged a car travelling through France, Belgium and the Netherlands, without permission of their European counterparts.
In the end jurors, who had been under police protection throughout the trial, were convinced by the evidence they had heard and seen.
Warren was jailed for 13 years in 2009. A confiscation order was made but was subject to a number of failed appeals by him over the last few years.
The prosecution case for the order was based partly on the covert recording of Warren in a Dutch prison in 2004.
He was heard saying: "Sometimes we'd do about £10m or £15m in a week."
Summing up for the prosecution, Solicitor General Howard Sharpe told the judge and six jurats the order was just and proportionate.
He asked after the recording was played: "Is he a serial fantasist who happens to tell people he is wealthy or a very successful cocaine dealer who can't resist telling people what he's done because he is 'cocky'?
"He is a successful and sophisticated cocaine trafficker."
Advocate Stephen Baker, for Warren, argued he had no assets, saying: "He has a strong tendency to talk nonsense at times."
Mr Baker said there was a risk of "serious injustice" and urged jurats to "put aside any preconceived notions of Warren and his reputation".
He said Warren had no assets, adding: "Whatever there was, there is nothing left."
In a statement, the Law Officers Department said the confiscation order was the result of several years of "extensive investigation".
"The investigation was complex and has involved highly effective and extensive international cooperation with jurisdictions worldwide.
"The case is a further example of Jersey's strong resolve and capability to fight complex organised and financial crime."
The evidence related to cocaine trafficking between 1991-1996 which law officers argued generated "huge sums of money".
Shipments ranged from 500kg (1,100lb) to multiple-tonne consignments, according to the officers.