Alleged money laundering scheme outlined

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An alleged scheme to launder the illegal proceeds of a drugs plot has been outlined for a jury.

Luke Hill, 47, from Hamilton Parish, is on trial at the Supreme Court accused of conspiring to import almost 80 grammes of diamorphine, better known as heroin, to the Island.

The court heard on Tuesday that such a quantity of drugs could fetch more than $230,000 if sold on the streets of Bermuda in 3 milligram “decks”.

Mr Hill also denies two money laundering charges, in which he allegedly used the bank accounts of two people to hide his illegal earnings.

Prosecutors claim the drugs were hidden in ten small packages, and that the handwriting on the labels was linked to Mr Hill.

However, defence lawyer Marc Daniels suggested that another man — John Thompson — had convinced him to fill out the labels during a conversation in a London pub.

As the trial continued yesterday, Detective Sergeant Paul Ridley took the stand, explaining a money laundering technique known as “smurfing”.

He said that in such schemes, the money launderer has other people, referred to as “smurfs”, deposit large quantities of Bermudian cash into their accounts and then withdraw US currency.

“The Bermuda dollar is effectively worthless outside of Bermuda and the currency of convenience is the US dollar because it’s the more generally accepted throughout the world,” he said.

He noted that generally, smurfs were paid a nominal fee for their efforts — between $30 and $100 per $1,000 exchanged. Det Sgt Ridley also told the court that he was one of the officers who arrested Mr Hill at LF Wade International Airport on July 19, 2012. Mr Hill was scheduled to be on the British Airways flight to London.

A search of the accused uncovered a train ticket to Ipswich — one of several areas where the heroin packages were labelled as originating — and a business card with an Ipswich address.

During cross examination, Mr Daniels suggested that the officer could not say that the bank records before the court indicated that smurfing had taken place, but he responded: “In my experience, that is the case.”

He also told the court that a search of Mr Hill’s home in Sandys found a very small amount of cannabis and a grinder but no large sums of cash.

Det Sgt Ridley said Mr Hill did not live alone and that, to his knowledge, he was never charged in connection with the illegal items found at the property.

Mr Daniels also questioned Det Sgt Ridley about the police interviews of another man, who is not before the court and believed to be off the Island.

The witness agreed that during a cautioned interview, the man admitted setting up a Mailboxes Unlimited account under the name of Shawn Smith — the name listed as the intended receiver of three of the ten drug packages.

The same man also admitted connections to two other addresses used on the packages through his parents.

The trial continues.

• 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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