Jersey's Royal Court has heard that the activities of a local jeweller, accused of laundering drug money, rang alarm bells at a London-based bullion company, prompting the manager to close his trade account.
The Royal Court heard the evidence on day two of a trial against Darius Andrew Pearce, who owns a store in the Central Market.
He is charged with three counts of “entering into or becoming concerned in an arrangement that facilitates, by any means, the acquisition, use, possession or control of criminal property by or on behalf of another person”, which he denies.
It is alleged the offences happened on or around 13 March 2019, 24 April 2019 and 1 May 2019.
On Friday, Crown Advocate Matthew Maletroit, who is leading the prosecution, claimed that Mr Pearce's activities were part of “a criminal enterprise” operating in the island for the supply of drugs.
Pictured: The trial is taking place in the Royal Court.
This came to light in June 2019 after a thwarted attempt to import by boat large quantities of cocaine, MDMA powder, ecstasy tablets and cannabis into the island.
The Court heard that several members of the enterprise had been interacting with Mr Pearce’s business in the Central Market, some as far back as 2016.
The Crown Advocate said that one man had brought a box into Mr Pearce’s shop and that a significant amount of cash had then been paid into Mr Pearce’s account and subsequently used to buy gold in London.
“There is no dispute that cash was handed out to Darius Pearce and that it was criminal property,” he said.
Jurats Charles Blampied and Jane Ronge, who are hearing the trial, were then shown CCTV footage captured in the Central Market. The Crown Advocate said the images showed Jon Hughes, who has since been jailed, dropping a bag at Mr Pearce’s shop
Pictured: The Court heard that boxes of cash were taken to Mr Pearce's shop.
After what the Crown Advocate described as a “handover”, cash deposits were made into Mr Peace’s accounts.
He then travelled to London to collect £25,000 worth of gold which he said he had sold on to another seller, along with some scrap gold he had brought from the island.
The Crown Advocate described the series of events as a “bizarre business arrangement”, noting that there was little or no profit to be made.
Referring to Mr Pearce’s interviews with the police, he said they were “very long” as he had been “evasive at times” and kept changing his story, suggesting he had done so to "mislead or otherwise cover his tracks."
The Crown Advocate said that Mr Pearce had entered all three arrangements knowing the cash he was dealing with was “criminal property”. He went on to say that Mr Pearce couldn’t “sensibly suggest” it was normal for his customers to leave a bag or box of cash in his shop.
“How could he not have suspected the business was illicit and illegal?” he said.
Pictured: The General Manager of a London bullion company said the business relationship with Mr Pearce ended in 2018 after what she described as “an unusual collection service."
Later in the day, the General Manager of Hatton Garden Metals, a London-based bullion company specialised in selling precious metals, was called as a witness.
The woman said that Mr Pearce had a trade account with them and that he had several people collect gold he had purchased on his behalf.
She said the assumption at the time was that they were working for his company or trusted to collect what she described as “high monetary value items."
The manager said the business relationship ended in 2018 after what she described as “an unusual collection service."
She explained that a man collecting gold on behalf of Mr Pearce had made enquiries about selling that gold. The woman said this has caused some suspicions due to the company’s anti-money laundering guidelines.
She said it was unusual for a jewellery shop to buy and sell items so quickly as they are typically bought either for stock or for investment.
The trial against Mr Pearce continues today, under the direction of Royal Court Commissioner Julian Clyde-Smith. It is expected to conclude later this week.
Pictured top: The Court heard that several members of the drug enterprise had been interacting with Mr Pearce’s business in the Central Market.
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