Curtis Warren, a notorious gangster who is the only drug trafficker to appear on the Sunday Times Rich List, has been convicted of a cannabis smuggling plot in Jersey
Warren, known by his nickname “Cocky”, was once the most wanted man in Europe and is said to be worth anything from £80m-£460m.
He was previously jailed in Holland over a £100million drugs plot, and his sentence was lengthened he was convicted of killing a fellow prisoner in a fight.
Warren had only been out of jail for five weeks when he was arrested in 2007 by Jersey police and accused of being the ringleader of a six-man gang who were trying to import 180kg of cannabis into the island from Holland via boat from France.
He had denied leading a £1 million plot, making an unusual defence case that he was too rich and sophisticated a ‘Mr Big’ figure to be involved in such “small fry”.
But after a two week trial St Helier, a jury at the Royal Court in St Helier found him guilty of conspiracy to import a controlled drug.
Warren was accused of orchestrating the conspiracy before he even left his Dutch jail cell. The Serious and Organised Crime Agency (Soca), along with the Dutch prison authorities, gathered what it described as “first class intelligence material indicating that Warren was still engaged in drug trafficking activity whilst in prison.”
As the investigation developed, it became clear that Jersey was to be the focus of Warren’s next job.
Authorities tracked Warren’s every move when he left prison in June 2007. He made 1,500 phone calls, 112 from public phone boxes, which had been bugged by police, and was secretly recorded talking about what he stood to gain from the Jersey plot.
Along with one of his co-accused, Jonathan Welsh, he also visited a secluded location on Jersey’s east coast that the pair agreed would be a good drop-off point for the drugs, which they planned to ship from Holland via the Normandy coast.
Warren was taped referring to the plot as “just a little starter”, suggesting that if could lead to bigger things.
Crown Advocate Howard Sharp, prosecuting, 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.”
Warren’s defence lawyer, Advocate Stephen Baker, claimed the recorded conversations had nothing to do with drugs and suggested he may have been arranging to buy guns to defend himself from rival gangsters or managing the “many, many” millions of pounds he has made from drug dealing.
Some of the surveillance evidence was obtained illegally by Jersey Police, leading to two years of court hearings before the trial took place.
But British Appeal Court judges, sitting in Jersey, ruled that the illegal recordings should be heard “in the interests of justice”.
Warren, 46, from Liverpool, showed no emotion as the jury’s unanimous verdict was given after around nine hours of deliberations.
His co-accused Jonathan Welsh, 43, James O’Brien, 45, Jason Woodward, 22, Paul Hunt, 27, and Oliver Lucas, 23, were also unanimously found guilty of conspiracy to import a controlled drug.
All six were remanded in custody until sentencing on December 4.
Bill Hughes, director general of SOCA, said: “Curtis Warren was a career criminal for whom prison was a temporary setback. He was already planning his next operation from inside prison, and when he was released SOCA was waiting, watching, and listening. “Together with our partners in the States of Jersey Police, we’ve stopped Curtis Warren’s plans in their tracks.”
Acting Chief Officer David Warcup, of the States of Jersey Police, said: “We hope that the conviction of the men sends out a clear message to others that we will continue to tackle those responsible for the importation of drugs into the island.”
By Richard Edwards