£20,000 from gold bullion sale ‘was spent on stamps’

A CENTRAL Market jeweller, accused of laundering thousands of pounds of drugs money, told Customs officers that he had spent £20,000 from selling gold bullion on stamps, a Royal Court trial has heard.

Darius Pearce on his way into Royal Court                                                             Picture: ROB CURRIE. (29797405)
Darius Pearce on his way into Royal Court Picture: ROB CURRIE. (29797405)

Darius Pearce is facing three counts of becoming concerned in the acquisition, use, possession or control of criminal property. He has pleaded not guilty to all three charges.

His arrest stemmed from a foiled plot involving seven criminals – who were later jailed for a combined total of 74 years – to smuggle just under £1 million of class A and B drugs into the Island on a sailing yacht from the UK.

Yesterday, Crown Advocate Matthew Maletroit told the court that on both 24 April and 1 May 2019 Jon Adam Hughes – one of those imprisoned – allegedly arrived at the Central Market with a bag, walked into Mr Pearce’s store and then left again without the bag. CCTV footage, which the Crown claims to show this, was played to the court.

Advocate Maletroit then showed records of Mr Pearce’s business account which showed a balance of less than £1,000 before, the Crown says, £11,000 of cash was paid into the account on 30 April, with a further £24,000 being paid in on 2 May.

He then showed bank records alongside an invoice for Baird and Co – a precious-metals dealer in the Hatton Garden area of London – to show that he then allegedly ordered £25,280 of gold bullion. He also booked flights to London, the court heard.

The trial is being heard by the Inferior Number of the Royal Court – two Jurats – rather than a jury. They heard that, while travelling to London on 7 May, Mr Pearce reportedly told Jersey Customs, who stopped him, that he was going there with the intention of buying scrap gold.

Officers stopped and questioned Mr Pearce again after he returned to Jersey. Mr Pearce is reported to have told them that he did not have any cash but did have a quantity of Jersey postage stamps and a small amount of scrap gold.

He then allegedly handed over a £150 invoice from a London stamp dealer, a £25,280 invoice for bullion from Baird and Co, along with a signed collection slip, and documents which the Crown say appeared to show that he had then almost immediately sold the gold at another Hatton Garden bullion dealer and received £25,564.39 in cash.

Advocate Maletroit said officers then reportedly asked what he had done with the cash but he was ‘evasive’, only telling them that he settled an ‘outstanding liability to one of his suppliers’. Advocate Maletroit said it was the Crown’s case that the cash was then given to gang members in London.

In June last year, several members of the gang were arrested as they were caught smuggling just under £1 million worth of drugs on a sailing yacht into Belval Cove near St Catherine.

The advocate said that Mr Pearce was arrested at the same time and questioned about the cash again and this time told officers that – while in London – he spent the cash on lunch, bought some stock, a diamond tester and £20,000 worth of stamps. When pushed further, the advocate said, Mr Pearce told officers it was none of their business what he did with his money. The stamp dealer allegedly involved said he had no record of the transaction.

In a subsequent interview, the court heard, Mr Pearce told officers that he had in fact bought half a kilo of gold with the money and said he had paid GST on it when bringing it into Jersey. However, no record of the GST payment was found.

Commissioner Julian Clyde-Smith is presiding and Jurats Charles Blampied and Jane Ronge are sitting. Mr Pearce’s trial continues.

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