Cocaine smuggler loses appeal

A conspirator in an international operation to smuggle nearly $1 million worth of cocaine soaked into shredded paper packaging has lost an appeal against his conviction.

Curtis Swan, 55, was sentenced to spend 21 years behind bars last year after being found guilty of drug importation and money laundering. Swan appealed both his conviction and the sentence on the grounds that he had been treated unfairly.

But in a judgment written by Appeal Judge Anthony Smellie, the court rejected both appeals.

Mr Justice Smellie said: “This was a highly sophisticated and persistent enterprise, with clear evidence from which it could be inferred that there had been at least one earlier successful importation.

“And whilst the learned judge accepted that the appellant could not be placed at the very apex of the conspiracy his role, as the judge also accepted, was clearly very significant, and went beyond being that of a foot-soldier.”

Swan, a former employee of The Royal Gazette, claimed in his appeal that acting Puisne Judge Juan Wolffe had not properly directed the jury and had delivered an “unbalanced” summary of the case.

He also alleged the jury had been placed under undue stress and inhumane conditions during the trial and final deliberations.

But the Court of Appeal found the claims did not stand up and that there was no evidence that jurors complained about conditions.

Mr Justice Smellie said: “It is now notoriously public knowledge that the physical conditions at court are far from ideal.

“However, nothing from the record of this trial rises anywhere near to the level of convincing this Court that the jury’s deliberations were in any way compromised or hampered by the physical conditions at court so as to bring into question the fairness of the appellant’s trial.”

The Supreme Court heard that on May 20, 2015, a package was mailed from Panama City, Panama, to Bermuda which was said to be vases valued at $365.

But a drug dog at US Customs in Tennessee alerted officers to the package.

They found a large amount of shredded paper which had been soaked in cocaine after it was examined.

Experts told the court that the paper contained about 2,598 grammes of crack cocaine.

The cocaine-soaked paper was removed and the package continued to Bermuda after the Bermuda Police Service were informed.

Swan, together with Aaron Johnston, collected the package from courier firm FedEx on May 27, 2015 and gave staff a typed note that claimed to be from the person the package had been addressed to.

The pair then went to Bermuda Paint in Devonshire, where they bought bottles of ammonium hydroxide — which witnesses said could be used to extract the cocaine from the shredded paper.

Police arrested the two men when they returned to Swan’s home in Warwick.

A search of the property turned up pieces of shredded paper, which were later found to contain cocaine.

Swan told police he bought and sold vases as part of his business and he knew nothing about the drugs in the package.

Prosecutors said Swan’s bank account had a series of suspicious transactions including deposits in “vast excess” of his known income and $72,852 of withdrawals in Panama.

Swan claimed the suspicious overseas activity was the result of scammers and the extra income was the result of various “hustles”.

But a jury found him guilty of conspiracy to import cocaine into Bermuda and money-laundering by a majority verdict.

It is The Royal Gazette’s policy not to allow comments on stories regarding court cases. As we are legally liable for any slanderous or defamatory comments made on our website, this move is for our protection as well as that of our readers.

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