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Smugglers in Jersey’s most complex drugs case facing lengthy jail terms

Smugglers in Jersey’s most complex drugs case facing lengthy jail terms

Wednesday 23 September 2020

Smugglers in Jersey’s most complex drugs case facing lengthy jail terms

Six men and one woman are being sentenced in the Royal Court this week for their involvement in the most complex drugs case ever investigated in Jersey.

They face jail sentences of between three and 16 years for being involved in the importation of a kilo of cocaine, two kilos of MDMA powder, 5,000 ecstasy tablets and 49 x 100g bars of cannabis resin, which were brought to the Island in a yacht that sailed from the UK last summer. The drugs had a total street value of close to £1m.

Their varied roles in the criminal enterprise covered the length of the supply chain, including the principal who coordinated the operation, the courier who carried money to fund it and pay for the drugs, the qualified yachtsman who sourced the boat, the skipper who sailed it here, the crewman who accompanied him, the ‘shore-man’ who collected the contraband from St. Catherine, and the locally based dealer who was to distribute the drugs to his network of suppliers. 

Nicholas Maxwell Thurban (62), Colin Russel Sait (45), Paul Dennis Brown (59), Daniel Niall Riley (26), John Alexander Roy (55), and Jon Adam Hughes (41) are being sentenced for trying to smuggle the £919,000-worth of drugs to Jersey, while Deborah Karen Wolff (54), along with Hughes, Riley and Roy, are being sentenced to money laundering offences linked to the importation. All had pleaded guilty at earlier court appearances.

Operation Lion Riley.jpeg

Pictured: One of the defendants, Daniel Niall Riley, leaving the Royal Court on Tuesday.

Amid tight security at the Royal Court on Tuesday, Crown Advocate Matthew Maletroit presented the facts of the case before the judge, Commissioner Julian Clyde-Smith, and Jurats Thomas, Christensen and Dulake.

He said: “The prosecution case stems from a joint investigation conducted by the States of Jersey Police and the Jersey Customs and Immigration Service, known as Operation Lion. 

“It became the most complex drug-related investigation ever undertaken by the Jersey authorities and, in order to bring this case to fruition, mutual legal assistance was obtained from the UK and numerous other jurisdictions around the world. The surveillance operation targeted numerous persons of interest and lasted several months.”

Advocate Maletroit explained that the apex of the investigation was a three-month period in 2019 between 20 March and 18 June, which culminated in a yacht, sailed by Thurban and Sait, mooring off Bel Val Bay near St. Catherine and the drugs being brought ashore. 

There, Brown was waiting to receive them. Suspecting he was under surveillance, he tried to hide the two rucksacks he’d just been given by throwing them in bushes but he was spotted by a passer-by, who then told officers who were closing in on the smugglers. 

Meanwhile, a UK Border Force cutter had intercepted the yacht and arrested the two crew.

Jersey-based Riley, who was responsible for distributing the drugs locally, was later arrested while the others, who were all in the UK, were arrested by UK officers and brought to Jersey. The ultimately successful search for Hughes included an appeal on Crimewatch. 


Pictured: UK Border Force with the suspect vessel in St. Helier Harbour, following the drugs seizure and arrests.

What the defendants didn’t know when they began to fund, plan and finally execute their importation was that they were being watched throughout by undercover officers. Hotel safes where they had left bundles of cash were opened, photographed and closed; checked-in luggage was searched; lunchtime conversations were listened to; and CCTV footage in the UK and Jersey was accessed and reviewed.

Advocate Maletroit told the Court that the case involved the most significant telecommunications investigation ever undertaken in Jersey. 55,000 lines of data were obtained and analysed from 136 mobile telephones. 36 mobile handsets and SIM cards were seized, giving investigators access to 26,000 telephone calls and text messages.

The defendants used multiple tactics to cover their tracks and frustrate investigation, including buying sets of pre-paid SIM cards and passing around phones. 

The court heard that each defendant had their role to play in the operation, which was reflected in the prison sentences called for by the Prosecution. 

Advocate Maletroit called for a 16-year sentence for the coordinator, Hughes, although the lawyer conceded that he was not thought to be at the very top of the chain. That title belonged to someone else, who is known to the authorities.

For Thurban, whom he said had a key role in the planning of the operation, which included trying to buy a RIB boat locally, as well as skippering the yacht, Advocate Maletroit called for a 14-year sentence.

For Roy, who chartered the yacht from Hamble Point Marina and sailed it between south-coast ports before its cross-Channel voyage, the Crown asked for a sentence of 13 years and nine months.

For Sait, the crewman, 12 years and three months in prison; for Brown, the ‘shore-man’, the same. For Riley, the local supplier, 11 years; and for Wolff, who flew to the Island to pick up cash from Hughes and return with it to the UK on two occasions, three years. 

Today, the hearing continues, with the seven defendants’ lawyers offering mitigation and other arguments against the Prosecution’s recommended sentences.

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