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Czech man told police he was smuggling gold and diamonds

A man accused of an attempt to smuggle $9.5 million of heroin into Bermuda said he thought he was carrying gold and diamonds for men he had met in the UK.

Josef Vlcek, 49, said that he did not know that drugs were hidden in his suitcases.

He told the Supreme Court through an interpreter: “I would never take any drugs anywhere.”

Mr Vlcek, from the Czech Republic, told the court that he had met a pair of men at a pub in London in the summer of 2017.

He said that they had offered to help him to exhibit his artwork and to travel. Mr Vlcek said the men arranged for him to meet other people a couple of days later at a different pub.

He said: “They wanted me to bring gold and diamonds for them from Johannesburg.”

Mr Vlcek, who said he was an artist, insisted he was told that transportation of the valuables was not illegal.

He said that he was promised help to find a place to paint and to hold an art exhibition.

Passport stamps showed that Mr Vlcek was in Johannesburg from September 6 to September 13, 2017.

Mr Vlcek said that he was given “two or three” packages to take back to London.

He added he was told the packages contained gold and diamonds, but did not see what was inside.

He said that the packages were collected hours after he returned to London.

Mr Vlcek added he met one of the men who had collected the packages the next day.

He said that they had discussed art and exhibitions, as well as a trip to Bermuda.

Mr Vlcek explained: “It was to be a surprise ‘thank you’ from them.”

He added that he was asked to transport gold and diamonds to Bermuda. Mr Vlcek said: “I told them it all seemed strange to me — but they managed to persuade me.”

He told the court that he had a conversation on a tablet device while in London with a man who identified himself as a member of the Bermuda Government.

Mr Vlcek said of the man: “He looked very trustworthy. We spoke about art, about gold, and diamonds.”

He said that he was told he would be paid if he brought the gold and diamonds to Bermuda.

Mr Vlcek said: “I believed him and I travelled.”

Susan Mulligan, Mr Vlcek’s lawyer, asked her client why he thought packages of gold and diamonds would have been hidden in the luggage if it was legal to travel with them.

Mr Vlcek said: “So that nobody would steal it or that I wouldn’t lose it.”

He told jurors that the suitcases he had brought with him to Bermuda were given to him by “different people” in London.

Mr Vlcek said in a videotaped police interview shown to the jury yesterday that he bought the bags in an East London market.

Nicole Simpson, for the Crown, asked Mr Vlcek if he had lied to police about where he got the suitcases.

He admitted: “It was a lie.”

Mr Vlcek was arrested at LF Wade International Airport on September 23, 2017, after he arrived on a flight from London with three packages with about 2.9 kilograms of 48 and 49 per cent pure heroin.