Former customs officer jailed for ten years

  • Roberto Marques (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

    Roberto Marques (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

  • Ryan Willingham-Walker (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

    Ryan Willingham-Walker (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Police hope that the jailing of a former customs officer for ten years for drug offences will send a “strong message” against corruption.

Roberto Marques, then still serving in customs, was arrested outside a Pembroke grocery store with 30 bags of cocaine hidden in a sunglasses case.

A search of the 41-year-old’s home revealed another 118 grams of the drug, along with drug equipment.

Detective Chief Inspector Nicholas Pedro said the case showed that the police would act “without fear or favour” in tackling cases.

Mr Pedro said: “This was an appropriate sentence, which conveyed the level of severity for the charges he was facing and ultimately convicted of. We hope that it sends a strong message to those who would engage in corrupt practices and illicit activities.

“The court’s sentence shows that we take these matters very seriously and will deal with them appropriately.”

Puisne Judge Carlisle Greaves said Marques’s role as a customs officer was a “substantial aggravating factor”.

Prosecutors had called for a sentence of no less than 12 years, while defence lawyer Charles Richardson argued that the sentence should not exceed eight years.

Meanwhile, a second man, 34-year-old Ryan Willingham-Walker, was sentenced to 18 months in prison for possessing cannabis with intent to supply.

Both men were arrested at the same time last November.

The Supreme Court heard that officers had been watching the parking area at Arnold’s store on St John’s Road when Marques arrived in a car.

Willingham-Walker got into the front passenger seat and left the car about five minutes later.

Police swooped as Marques tried to pull out of the parking area and arrested both men.

Marques admitted he had some “molly”, and during a search officers found cathinone — a drug similar to amphetamines but legal — stored in the centre console.

But they also found the sunglasses case with 30 ziplock bags containing cocaine.

Willingham-Walker was found to be carrying 6.4 grams of cannabis and a small amount of cathinone.

A search of Marques’s home turned up more cocaine — a total of 131 grams of the drug from his house and car worth $31,375.

Police also found more cannabis at Willingham-Walker’s home, with the total seized from his clothes and property said to be 144 grammes — worth around $6,750.

Both defendants pleaded guilty to possession of drug equipment and money laundering.

Marques also pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine with intent to supply and Willingham-Walker admitted possession of cannabis with intent to supply.

Nicole Smith, prosecutor, argued that Marques’s position as a customs officer was a serious aggravating factor.

However, Mr Richardson said there was no suggestion Marques had abused his position.

In the case of Willingham-Walker, Ms Smith said a sentence of between two and four years would be appropriate given the quantity of cannabis.

But Mr Richardson said the only reason Willingham-Walker was before the Supreme Court was that prosecutors had tied his charges to those of Marques.

Willingham-Walker said he did not believe he should have been grouped with Marques, and that he had only got into his co-defendant’s car to discuss a football bet.

A previous version of this story mistakenly stated that Willingham-Walker was found with cocaine, when he was actually found with cannabis. We apologise for the error.

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

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