Man on trial for conspiracy to import heroin

A man accused of conspiring to import heroin and laundering the profits went on trial yesterday.

Luke Hill, 47, from Hamilton Parish, has denied a charge of conspiring with others to import diamorphine, better known as heroin, and two charges of possessing the proceeds of criminal activity.

Opening the Crown’s case yesterday in the Supreme Court, prosecutor Alan Richards said that Mr Hill was linked to a series of packages intercepted by Bermuda Customs containing relatively small amounts of heroin.

He said ten packages were seized, containing a combined total of a little less than 80 grams of the controlled drug — with an estimated street value of more than $230,000, according to a detective.

While the packages were all labelled with different UK addresses, Mr Richards said that a handwriting expert would tell the court that the handwriting on the packages matched that of Mr Hill.

“It’s the Crown’s case that Mr Hill was responsible for writing the address labels on the packages,” the prosecutor said. “We say this demonstrates that he was a conspirator in this importation.”

Regarding the money laundering offences, Mr Richards said that Mr Hill had used the bank accounts of two other men — Ernest Mello and Burland Hill — to change Bermudian money into US currency.

In all of the transactions, he said a quantity of Bermudian cash had been deposited into the accounts, and within minutes a corresponding value of US cash was withdrawn from the same account.

In the case of Mr Mello’s account, a total of more than $55,000 was exchanged between December 2, 2011, and December 3, 2012, with Mr Richards stating that Police and CCTV cameras caught Mr Hill with Mr Mello when some of the transactions took place.

Meanwhile, more than $68,000 was allegedly exchanged using Burland Hill’s account, with the defendant allegedly borrowing the senior’s bank card to carry out the transactions using his account. “[The defendant] selected these two gentlemen for a reason,” Mr Richards said.

“Both of them were vulnerable individuals — Mr Mello because of his personal circumstances, his lack of a fixed address, and Burland Hill because of his advancing age.

“In seeking to use the banking facilities of these gentlemen, he was preying on them for his own ends to distance himself from drug trafficking.”

As the trial began, the court heard the results of an analyst report, which found that the ten bags seized by customs contained between 6.5g and 14.2g of heroin, with a combined total of 79.6g. Detective Sergeant David Bhagwan, meanwhile, told the court that heroin was sold on the streets of Bermuda in 3 milligram “decks” for about $20 each.

He said that the seized quantity could be divided into about 11,666 decks, which could fetch as much as $233,320 if sold.

The officer added that a chronic heroin user typically used up to four or five times a day.

Asked if the drugs seized could be for personal use, he replied: “It’s highly unlikely.

“Someone having that number of decks of heroin, it’s for distribution purposes.”

• It is The Royal Gazette’s policy not to allow comments on stories regarding court cases. This is to prevent any statements being published that may jeopardise the outcome of that case.

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