The seizure is the largest single importation intercepted in the Island.
Alexander David Cullen, who gave a thumbs-up to the public gallery as he was led out of court, boarded Condor Liberation from Poole on the premise of selling a ‘child’s quad bike’ to an Islander.
However, when the 29-year-old was stopped, Customs officers noticed his ‘hands trembling’. A subsequent search of the van he travelled in uncovered the enormous stash hidden in the fuel tank in 16 wrapped packages.
The Royal Court heard that Cullen had developed a serious drug addiction while living in Ibiza – consuming 1.5g of cocaine and 2g of cannabis every day – and as a result had built up substantial drug debts totalling around £20,000. The defendant, who is originally from Liverpool, said that in order to pay off his debt he volunteered to mind drugs but they were subsequently stolen and the debt remained outstanding.
Cullen then returned to Liverpool, getting himself a job at John Lennon Airport, reducing his daily drug intake and, after eight months back in the UK, assumed his debt had been cleared.
Crown Advocate Matthew Maletroit, prosecuting, said that Cullen bumped into a drug dealer who warned him the debt had now risen to £30,000, that they knew where he lived and that he needed to do something to pay them back. It was heard that his van was then taken and drugs hidden inside it. Cullen claimed that he did not know what, or how much, had been concealed.
The heroin packages had an average purity of 21%, although two packages were measured at a 56% purity.
Customs estimate that, if sold at street level, the haul could have been worth as much as £10 million.
Pushing for a 14-year jail term, Advocate Maletroit said that couriers played a significant role in the supply chain and without them the local market would collapse.
Advocate Sarah Dale, defending, said that her client – the only category-A prisoner at La Moye – was ‘under no illusion that he would receive a substantial prison sentence’ but said the one proposed by Advocate Maletroit was too high.
‘Someone who is high up in command and who is likely to profit significantly is more culpable than someone who is the courier of drugs and who is not likely to know the quantity of drugs or profit from them,’ she said.
‘We are looking at a courier and nothing more. The Crown suggests that he may be close to the source because of the quantity of drugs and his previous involvement in drugs.
‘But there is no evidence that Mr Cullen was close to the source.’
She added that Cullen had pleaded guilty and had ‘taken real steps to move away from his old life’ but his previous associates did not appreciate the new direction that he was trying to move in and his ‘past ultimately caught up with him’.
In sentencing, the Bailiff, Tim Le Cocq, described the seizure as ‘unprecedented’.
‘We are a small island and the effect of such a substantial importation into the Island is felt and has greater prejudice than in a larger jurisdiction, hence the court’s strict and uncompromisable sentencing policy,’ he said.
‘We accept your role of courier but couriers are an important part of the supply chain.
‘The damage would have been substantial indeed had it not been foiled.’
Mr Le Cocq ordered the forfeiture of the drugs and Cullen’s van.
Jurats Jerry Ramsden, Barbara Thomas, Jane Ronge, Tony Christensen and Steven Austin-Vautier were also sitting.