Lorenzo Bocchini, 36, was arrested in July after police raided an "Aladdin's cave" flat rented through AirBnB and discovered more than £180,000 worth of cash and Class A drugs including cocaine, MDMA and crystal meth. His brother Alessandro Bocchini, 45, and Alessandro's wife Justine Bocchini, 33, are both already in prison for supplying drugs commonly used in homosexual sex parties to heighten pleasure, Southwark Crown Court in London heard.
South Africa-born Lorenzo, whose father is from Italy, was decorated while playing for Italian side L'Aquila after the town was devastated by the 2009 earthquake, the court heard. He and his team mates helped survivors by distributing food and blankets. The prop forward also played for teams including Viadana and appeared in the Heineken Cup.
Lorenzo Bocchini said he became involved in the capital's chem sex scene - where gay men take drugs including crystal meth to enhance their sexual experience - after coming to London from L'Aquila six moths after the disaster.
Giving evidence he said the trauma of the aftermath of the disaster, which killed a close friend, coupled with the stress of hiding his then closeted sexuality in the homophobic world of Italian rugby, had left him depressed. When he came to London, he said, he got into the gay scene and developed a drug
habit of his own which made him feel better, but he found himself earning the minimum wage in a fast food restaurant.
Because of his powerful physique he said he became a minder and drugs 'babysitter' for several dealers, telling the court: "They knew they could trust me. I'm a big guy. They knew they could rely on me. I kept their stuff safe for them." He denied being more than a minder but refused to name the dealers out of "respect" for "powerful people."
The court heard he has refused to unlock his two mobile phones so police can see what is on them. Prosecutor Grant Vanstone on Friday said that the items found in the flat and a nearby lock-up garage showed that he was "close to the source of supply" of drugs. The lawyer said: "What we say is that the amount and types of drugs are those used in particular parties.
"They are sex parties that are using a variety of drugs in order to facilitate and improve sexual behaviour."
But Bocchini's lawyer, Dominic D'Souza, insisted he was merely a "custodian" of the drugs in the Little Venice flat. Sentencing him, Recorder James Curtis QC said his story was "heart-wrenching" but ruled he had played a "major and active part" in the drugs operation.
Mr Curtis added: "I have no doubt you had an impressive and remarkable background in rugby and in humanity in the way that you aided people at great cost to yourself. I have no doubt that left you with an enormous amount of certain depressive consequences. With that background, however, I have no doubt you engaged powerfully and actively in the dealing of recreational and hard drugs for the London chem sex scene."
Bocchini had admitted seven counts of possession with intent to supply Class A and B drugs, and one of possession of a Class C drug, at a hearing in November.
Some of the crystal meth found at the flat had been "dyed blue in an apparent bid to copy the cult TV show Breaking Bad", Scotland Yard said before the sentencing. Alessandro and Justine Bocchini admitted a string of drugs offences including possession with intent to supply crystal meth and were jailed in October for six and four years respectively.
The Belfast Telegraph/Jan. 6, 2017
Photo: the Evening Standard.uk