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Cocaine smuggler Swan sentenced to 21 years

A conspirator in an international operation to smuggle nearly $1 million worth of cocaine soaked in shredded paper packaging into Bermuda has been jailed for 21 years.

Curtis Swan had also been convicted of possessing more than $130,000 in ill-gotten gains and removing $90,000 from the island that police believe was earned from the illegal trade of narcotics on the island.

Yesterday the 54-year-old was sentenced to 21 years for conspiracy to import the drugs and three years each for two counts of money-laundering. Acting Puisne Judge Juan Wolffe ordered that all the sentences should run concurrently.

Mr Justice Wolffe described the drug smuggling operation as “sophisticated” and said Swan’s role was on the “middle rung of the ladder”.

“There is not much in the way of mitigation in this case,” he added. “Without conspirators and the brains behind the operation the drugs would not reach our streets.

“It must have been clear to the jury that you were not just a simple mule duped into picking up the box of vases.

“Money obtained from drugs transactions is the ultimate motivator for the importation of drugs and the money launderer is the most critical person in the entire industry.”

Earlier in yesterday’s sentencing hearing, Swan had again professed his innocence of any involvement in the drug operation.

During the course of a five-week trial at Supreme Court, jurors heard that Swan, who previously worked at The Royal Gazette, was caught red-handed in May 2015 after he picked up a package containing shredded paper and glass vases from FedEx in Hamilton.

Authorities in the United States had already intercepted the package, which originated in Panama, and removed the packaging that was found to have been soaked in cocaine hydrochloride.

After Swan picked up the package he was kept under supervision as he stopped at Bermuda Paint and bought liquid ammonia on behalf of The Royal Gazette — which he was not authorised to do.

Prosecutors told the court that the chemical would have been used to remove the cocaine from the shredded paper and would have produced a large quantity of crack cocaine with a street value of over $811,000.

When police descended on Swan’s Warwick home, they discovered vases and other packaging, which contained traces of cocaine. They believed it showed this was not the first attempt to smuggle in the cocaine from Panama.

Further inquiries by financial crime officers revealed huge quantities of cash had been deposited in Swan’s three Bermuda bank accounts between January 2013 and 2015 and withdrawn soon after the money was transferred.

Examination of his bank account records showed Swan had removed just over $92,000 from Bermuda through his various accounts that had then been withdrawn from cash points in Trinidad and Panama.

He had also personally tried to launder a further $39,000 in ill-gotten gains by exchanging Bermuda dollars for US currency at various financial establishments in Bermuda.

Swan was arrested and questioned by police on May 28, 2015.

He admitted picking up the package from FedEx but claimed he had no idea it had contained drugs.

During his trial Swan took the stand and again insisted that he had done nothing wrong and had no idea that he had been involved in a drug importation conspiracy.

However, the jury rejected his version of events and found him guilty of conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into Bermuda and money-laundering by a majority decision last month.

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