Couple accused of smuggling cocaine in their luggage weep in court
British pensioner couple accused of smuggling £1m of cocaine in their luggage on a cruise weep in court as they say they were betrayed by friends
- Roger Clarke and wife Sue, aged 72 and 71, arrested last year in Lisbon, Portugal
- The pair, from Kent, were arrested after 9lbs of cocaine found in their suitcases
- Former chef Roger insisted he had no idea the cocaine was hidden in the lining
- Both face up to 12 years in jail if they are eventually convicted of drug trafficking
- They were remanded in custody until September 26 for a verdict and sentencing
A retired British couple on trial for smuggling £1million of cocaine into Europe on a luxury Caribbean cruise both wept in court today and claimed they had been betrayed by friends.
Roger Clarke and his wife Sue were arrested with 9lbs of the class A drug hidden in their suitcases as their ship the MC Marco Polo docked in Portugal.
Former chef Roger, 72, insisted he had no idea the cocaine was hidden in the lining of four suitcases picked up on the paradise island of St Lucia.
Clarke and Sue (Roger far-right and Sue far-left being led through court today), a 71-year-old retired secretary, face up to 12 years in jail if they are convicted of drug trafficking
Prosecutor Manuela Brito (left outside court today) asked why a man of Clarke’s ‘age and life experience’ agreed to bring back suitcases given to him by strangers. But defence lawyer Susana Paisana (pictured right in the floral dress alongside defence lawyer Patricia Daniel Rocha) said there was no evidence to show the Clarkes were linked to organised crime
Roger Clarke and his wife Sue (pictured together) were arrested with 9lbs of the class A drug hidden in their suitcases as their ship the MC Marco Polo docked in Portugal
He told the three judges presiding over his case: ‘Some people knew we occasionally went on Caribbean cruises and asked me to negotiate to buy exotic fruit for shipment back to the UK.
‘I met people on certain islands to do that job.
‘Then they asked me if I would bring some suitcases back because they could fetch a high price in places like Harrods, up to £1,500 per case.
‘They said they were going to use the cases as samples.
‘It was something I did for them with no problems on earlier cruises and so I said ‘yes’ this time round.’
Describing his shock when Portuguese police knocked on their cabin at 5am after it docked in Lisbon and cut open their cases to find cocaine inside, he added: ‘I am so sorry we are here but we never ever knew drugs were in them.’
Clarke and Sue, a 71-year-old retired secretary, face up to 12 years in jail if they are convicted of drug trafficking.
Explosive court papers released ahead of their trial allege the couple used their age as a front to hide their ‘illicit project to make easy money’.
The pair (pictured) led a jet-set lifestyle with no obvious way of paying for it, court papers show. Roger and Sue Clarke went on luxury cruises worth £18,000 in two years before their arrest despite living on just £885 a month
The elderly pair were enjoying a jet set lifestyle of flights and cruises around the world worth £18,000 in two years despite a monthly disposable income of £885-a-month, papers found.
Clarke, from Bromley, Kent, claimed after his arrest a mysterious UK-based Jamaican businessman called Lee had asked him to negotiate the exotic fruit sales during cruise ship stopovers in the Caribbean and bring back the suitcases ‘as a sideline.’
In court he pointed the finger at a second former associate George Wilmot, known as Dee.
He told the court: ‘I dealt with both Lee and Dee. They said they were having problems getting the fruit and as I had been a chef and knew the difference between good fruit and bad fruit, I said I would help.
‘The people I negotiated with in the Caribbean were the same ones who gave me the suitcases.
‘I’d give Lee or Dee our itinerary before our cruise and I’d be met dockside by a man with my name on a board who’d take me in a car to the pack-house to see the fruit.
‘I’d get £2,000 per container that ended up being shipped back to the UK.
‘I wasn’t always asked to take back suitcases but when I was I got £2000 for each case.
‘The first time we picked up cases was in Antigua, twice we were given cases in St Lucia and once in Barbados.’
Prosecutor Manuela Brito asked why a man of Clarke’s ‘age and life experience’ agreed to bring back suitcases given to him by strangers for someone whom he knew only by their first name.
‘I have known Lee and Dee for years,’ Mr Clarke insisted.
‘My wife met them, Lee came out to our home in Spain with his wife on holiday.
‘We went to two weddings in Jamaica of the people importing the fruit.
‘We thought they were genuine friends and we were just happy to do them a favour.’
Clarke, from Bromley, Kent, claimed after his arrest a mysterious UK-based Jamaican businessman called Lee had asked him to negotiate the exotic fruit sales during cruise ship stopovers in the Caribbean and bring back the suitcases ‘as a sideline’ [File photo]
The couple, who were jailed in 2010 for smuggling cannabis resin in Norway, held hands after their handcuffs were removed.
Mrs Clarke, wearing a pink top and black trousers, declined to add to her husband’s testimony.
In her summing up, their defence lawyer Susana Paisana said there was no evidence to show the Clarkes were linked to organised crime or that Clarke’s fruit export testimony was not true.
She called on the three judges to clear the couple – or hand them a minimum sentence because of their ‘advanced age and state of health’ if they felt they had to convict them.
The pair were remanded in custody until September 26 for a verdict and sentencing hearing.
Source: Read Full Article