Drug smuggler caught with £320,000 'high purity' cocaine at Portsmouth port is jailed
A DRUG smuggler who claimed he had been cycling in Spain for three weeks on holiday was found with ‘high purity’ cocaine worth £320,000 concealed in his car at the port – landing him a long jail sentence.
Drug addict Christopher Gillies, 38, was stopped by Border Force officers whose suspicions were aroused at Portsmouth Ferry Port on November 25 last year.
The British man, originally from the Isle of Man, moved to Ibiza before becoming involved in a ‘sophisticated’ drug dealing operation in the Balearic Islands.
After getting into debt with his dependency, Gillies, of no fixed address but who moved to Ibiza in 2013, was part of a gang looking to exploit the lucrative UK drugs market, Portsmouth Crown Court heard.
Under pressure to pay-off his mounting debt to his superiors, Gillies was the expendable courier ordered to transfer the four kilos of high purity cocaine into Britain having travelled on a ferry from Santander in an undistinguished Seat Leon.
Despite the ‘professional’ network, Gillies was caught red-handed when a search of his Spanish registered vehicle revealed four tape wrapped packages in a purpose-built hide within the rear seats.
Ben Youlden, Border Force assistant director at Portsmouth, said: ‘The rear seats had been laid flat, with Gillies’ luggage loaded on top.
‘When officers went to pull the seats up, they found that they were unnaturally heavy. With suspicions raised, officers cut the seats open and found the packages, which tested positive for cocaine.’
Prosecutor Martyn Booth told the court the smuggling attempt was ‘well planned’ and a ‘professional set-up’.
He said: ‘There were 4kg of compressed cocaine. One had purity of 83 per cent while the other three had a 91 per cent purity.
‘This was high-grade cocaine with a wholesale price of £132,000 and a street value of £320,000.’
After being arrested Gillies attempted to play down his involvement, Mr Booth said. In a statement produced for police, he said: ‘I did it (the drug smuggling) to pay off a drug debt but I wasn't aware of the quality and amount of cocaine as I wasn’t present when it was put in the car.’
The prosecutor said the discovery of a telephone in his car cast doubts over Gillies’ tale. ‘The phone gave a different picture to the one he told about being in Barcelona for a cycling holiday,’ Mr Booth told the court.
‘There was a great deal of material on the phone showing he had been in Ibiza drug dealing.’
The court was told Gillies had previously been sent to jail for three years for drug dealing in 2003 and was also given a suspended sentence in 2013 for possessing ecstasy – sparking his move to Ibiza to start a new life away from drugs.
But a failed business venture with a partner soon saw Gillies return to the drugs world.
Defending Daniel Reilly said: ‘Mr Gillies has had a difficult relationship with drugs. He threw himself into his business venture but when it didn’t work out it meant he was left with no work.
‘He found himself using cocaine on an increasing basis until he described it as a ‘proper dependency’. He does not shy away from his involvement in the sale of drugs and became involved with very serious individuals.’
Gillies admitted a single charge of importing Class A drugs.
Judge Roger Hetherington told Gillies: ‘You were doing (the smuggling) to gain money for yourself and to pay off a debt. No doubt you were under pressure from those who were supplying you.’
‘You played a significant role in what was a sophisticated operation involving high purity cocaine.’
The judge then jailed Gillies for seven years and four months.
Peter Stevens, branch commander at the National Crime Agency, said after the verdict: ‘We know that drug trafficking is a major source of revenue for organised criminal groups, and Gillies admitted to NCA officers that his motivation was financial.
‘By stopping this attempt we have prevented those networks from making profit to reinvest in further criminal activity. It demonstrates that disrupting the supply of Class A drugs at the UK border is a priority for the NCA, Border Force and other partners.’
Anyone with information about activity they suspect may be linked to smuggling should call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or go to www.gov.uk/report-smuggling