English pensioners Roger and Susan Clarke have each been sentenced to eight years in jail at the Campus of Justice, Lisbon’s main criminal court, on Thursday following their three day trial on drug smuggling charges.
They were arrested on 4 December 2018 at Santa’s cruise terminal having arrived the Caribbean carrying more than 9 kilos of cocaine in four suitcases worth in excess of £1 million
Judge-President Margarida Alves, said that the couple boarded the boat in England but picked up the drugs during a stop in Santa Lucia.
It was said that Roger, a former cook, left the boat, and visited a fruit plantation to close a deal for a friend named Lee. He came back with the 4 bags which were handed to him for later sale.
The couple denied knowing they had drugs, which were contained inside the suitcase linings. However, in finding them guilty of smuggling the judges say that they considered the statement to be untrue.
The NCA have not publicly revealed how they got the information the Clarkes could be carrying nine kilos of cocaine picked up in St Lucia although Vitor Ananais, who led the operation for the Policia Judiciaria, said “We knew who were looking for and we boarded the cruise ship with a search warrant.”
It is thought that they acted following a tip off from Spanish police and the National Crime Agency, who have had the couple under surveillance. Ananais said that he believed they were smuggling the cocaine into UK for dealers who are probably based on the Costa del Sol
According to reports in the Portuguese newspaper Correio da Manha the pair were already known to police and both have criminal records in the UK.
Court papers showed that the pair led a jet-set lifestyle with no obvious way of paying for it.
A friend of the couple, who lived in Guardamar del Segura, refused to be named but was quoted as saying: “In UK they were living in sheltered accommodation but decided to move to Spain about 4 years ago, because that is where all Roger’s family live. We are still all shocked by what has happened. They seemed such a nice normal couple.”
Both were regulars at the Med Bar in El Raso where Roger, a former soldier, regularly played in the golf society.
Roger and Sue Clarke, who were jailed in Norway in 2010 for trafficking 240kg of cannabis resin on another cruise, went on luxury cruises worth £18,000 in two years before their arrest despite living on just £885 a month.
Their 33-night Caribbean cruise began in Tilbury, Essex, on November 5 last year. A fellow passenger said “They seemed just like any other couple — they just really, really enjoyed a drink, but who doesn’t?” he said. “I went ashore with them a couple of times and Roger paid for everything with cash.
Even on the boat he would just get wads of cash out of his pocket. But they dodged all the photos, which is so odd for a cruise. Apart from that they were just a lovely couple who were having a good time in the sun.”
The couple are now awaiting confirmation of the sentence although their defense lawyer has said already that she is considering placing an appeal.