Notorious European drug trafficker Curtis Warren, back in prison soon, after only being a free man for a month.
Curtis Warren was 'ringleader of Jersey smuggling gang'
One of the UK's most notorious criminals was revealed today as the alleged ringleader of a gang accused of plotting to smuggle £1m of cannabis into Jersey.
Curtis Warren, 46, is the only drug trafficker to make it on to the Sunday Times Rich List, and was once Interpol's most wanted man, a jury at the royal court in St Helier heard.
Liverpool-born Warren denies planning to import 180kg (396lbs) of cannabis into the island by boat along with five other men in 2007. The prosecution says Warren had the "clout and influence" to lead the conspiracy, which he allegedly orchestrated from public phone boxes in Jersey and the UK in an attempt to avoid detection.
He was arrested weeks after being released from jail in the Netherlands, where he had served 10 years of a sentence for drug trafficking and firearms offences and manslaughter, the court heard.
Ordinarily, a defendant's previous convictions may not be aired in open court, because of the obvious risk of prejudicing the jury. But today , Warren's counsel, Stephen Baker, took the unusual decision of revealing his client's most sensational crimes, while cross-examining the Jersey police officer in charge of the case.
These included Warren's conviction in the Netherlands in 1997 for importing 400kg of cocaine, 100kg of heroin, 1,050kg of cannabis and 50kg of ecstasy. The jury was also told that while serving his sentence, he killed another prisoner.
Baker told the jury that Warren, a drug dealer of "substantial wealth and influence", is so famous that an unauthorised biography has been written about his life. The book, Cocky, has recently sold out at the island's branch of Waterstone's, Baker said, despite the media blackout on Warren's previous convictions.
Baker added: "[Warren] is the only alleged drug trafficker to have appeared in the Sunday Times rich list and, did you know, in Liverpool and London, you buy T-shirts with his photograph on them?"
The jury heard about another of Warren's court appearances, in Newcastle in 1993, when he was accused of smuggling 1,000kg of cocaine into the UK, hidden in lead ingots.
That trial was stopped and Warren walked free when it was revealed that one of his associates, Brian Charrington, was a Customs informer.
All this was disclosed as his counsel tried to discover whether one of the men involved in the Jersey plot was in fact a police informant. Mohammed Liazid, a Moroccan living in the Netherlands, is accused of providing the cannabis which Warren and his alleged gang plotted to bring to Jersey via boat from France.
Liazid was secretly taped discussing the alleged deal with Jonathan Welsh, 43, one of Warren's co-accused, a friend of his for 20 years who was referred to in court as Warren's "right hand man".
But Liazid has not been arrested. Baker suggested no attempts had been made to arrest him and asked whether he could be an informer for either the Dutch or Jersey authorities.
During cross-examination, Detective Sergeant Paul Kennea, the Jersey police officer leading the case, said he had no knowledge that Liazid was an informer, and said the police had no idea of his whereabouts.
The court heard yesterday that much of the evidence against the gang was obtained through covert surveillance of Warren and others by police in Jersey, Britain and the Netherlands, some of which Warren's counsel described yesterday as "unlawfully gathered".
The jury has been played covert recordings of a meeting in Amsterdam between Liazid and Welsh and a telephone conversation he had with Warren.
Baker suggested Warren had been somehow set up because he was such a famous scalp for a police force to claim.
He said: "The Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca), the Dutch prosecution authorities and the Jersey police were so desperate to get Mr Warren that they will use police agents to incite him into conversation."
The detective replied: "This operation was conducted professionally and by the book, arrests were made when evidence was at hand, evidence gathered by lawful means."
But Baker said the officer had not been honest with the jury. He explained that a bugging device in a hire car used by Welsh to drive from France to his meeting with Liazid had been fitted illegally with a listening device. French and Belgian authorities had refused Jersey police permission to fit the bug, but it was placed in the car anyway, the jury was told.
During an earlier hearing, the judge had described the Jersey police action as "reprehensible and unlawful and to say the least regrettable".
Warren didn't get his hands dirty with the nitty gritty of the deal, the jury was told on Thursday. Howard Sharp, for the prosecution, said: "Warren has a light touch. You won't see him handling the drugs or shipping bags of cash about. He leaves such chores, the really risky part of the drugs business, to others, lower down the food chain. "
Despite owning at least three mobile phones, Warren made 112 calls from public phone boxes in Jersey and the UK during the five-week conspiracy period, said Sharp. He deliberately didn't use mobiles or landlines to make it "difficult, if not impossible, to attribute the call to [him]" said Sharp, adding, "Warren's difficulty, as you will see, is that the police were watching."
Also on trial is James O'Brien, 45, who the jury was told today has a conviction for importing 60kg of cannabis into Jersey by boat from Normandy in 2002.
The other defendants are Jason Woodward, 22, Paul Hunt, 27, and Oliver Lucas, 23. The trial was adjourned until Tuesday
If you live in the UK, especially the North, you will have taken the drugs this man imported. Rest-assured when he gets out, you'll be able to take some more.......