Cruising British pensioners handed eight-year sentence for cocaine-smuggling

Cruising British pensioners handed eight-year sentence for cocaine-smuggling

British pensioner couple Roger and Sue Clarke were sentenced to eight years in jail on Thursday after being found guilty by Lisbon’s criminal court of trying to smuggle nine kilos of cocaine hidden in four suitcases into Europe on a luxury Caribbean cruise.

The pair will serve their sentences in Portugal instead of being kicked out of the country and sent back to the UK to do their jail time as a state prosecutor had requested.

British newspapers report this morning that Mr Clarke was holding hands with his wife when they both heard their sentence and reacted with shock when he learned how long they will be spending behind bars.

“Jesus Christ, I wasn’t expecting more than four. I’ll be 80 when all this is over,” he reportedly whispered to his wife.

The pair – both in their 70s – were arrested at Lisbon’s port in December last year on the return leg of a Caribbean cruise after it was discovered that they were transporting nine kilos of cocaine in the false-bottoms of their luggage.

The UK’s Express reports that Clarke told the court he had “no idea the cases had drugs inside” and was taking them back to the UK for a friend called Lee who had “promised to pay him £800” after bragging he could sell them for a massive profit.

But his explanation did not convince judges. State prosecutor Manuela Brito dismissed his claim that he had been ‘betrayed’ by people he trusted and insisted they knew exactly what they were doing.

The couple embarked on four cruises to South America in two years, which the court considered to be a front for their crimes.

Brito also questioned how they could pay for the cruises, estimated to cost around £18,000, when they survived on a joint monthly pension of £1,150, from which the couple had to pay rent of £445.

As British press explains, the Clarkes were thought be making up to £26,500, plus expenses, per cruise on drug smuggling trips.

What certainly didn’t help their case was their record of similar crimes. The pair had served prison sentences in Norway after being caught trafficking 240kg of cannabis in 2010.

Roger Clarke, who was born Roger Button but changed his surname to Clarke after finishing his prison sentence, was jailed for nearly five years and Sue for three years and nine months.

michael.bruxo@algarveresident.com