The case against Jack Marrion, 33, pictured embracing his girlfriend Emanuela outside court today, has been abandoned after it was blown apart by US anti-drug agents
A British aristocrat accused of smuggling £4.5million of cocaine into Kenya is about to be cleared – more than two years after his arrest.
Prosecutors have abandoned their case against Jack Marrian, the grandson of the late Earl of Cawdor, after it was blown apart by US anti-drug agents.
They have made clear he knew nothing about the cocaine which arrived in a shipping container addressed to his sugar-trading company.
In a letter obtained by the Daily Mail through America’s Freedom of Information laws, the US Drug Enforcement Administration declared: ‘It is clear from intelligence that the load was placed in the container unbeknownst to the owner of the sugar. This is a common occurrence used by traffickers in South America.
‘The DEA would like to stress there was no indication the cocaine was to be received by anyone in Kenya or Uganda and that the company owning the consignment had no knowledge that the cocaine was secreted inside their shipment of sugar.’
Mr Marrian, 33, whose ancestral home is 14th century Cawdor Castle in the Scottish Highlands, has been fighting his case through the Nairobi courts since his arrest in a night-time raid on his home in Kenya in July 2016. He faced a possible prison sentence of 30 years if convicted.
After the latest hearing yesterday he said: ‘I’m extremely relieved but after all I’ve been through I won’t celebrate until the magistrate makes his formal ruling next week.’
Magistrate Derrick Koto will give his ruling on the prosecution’s request that Mr Marrian be acquitted at a court session next Thursday.
Mr Marrian, pictured with Emanuela today, was arrested in Kenya in July 2016. After spending two weeks in police cells he was released on a £500,000 bail. He faced a possible prison sentence of 30 years if convicted
His mother Lady Emma Campbell said: ‘We’re so proud of Jack. He has been brave and calm and very respectful in court throughout this when he could have got so angry. He’s been living his life in this dark shadow for more than two years. Today is a huge relief.’
The businessman’s family and girlfriend accompanied him to court yesterday where they heard prosecutor Jacob Ondari admit new information had come to light.
Mr Ondari said: ‘International drugs enforcement teams have helped to provide information that clears Marrian, tracing his consignment of sugar back through Spain to Brazil and have uncovered the real criminal source. His acquittal should be just a formality now.’
Mr Marrian beamed broadly outside court yesterday, hugging supporters and his Italian girlfriend Emanuela after the hearing.
US drug agents, who knew the real culprits – Brazilian gangsters – had pleaded on Mr Marrian’s behalf last September. However, he was stunned when the court insisted it had a prima facie case against him and he should prepare his defence.
As the chief executive of the trading company Mshala Commodities his name had been on the ‘lading bill’ for 22 shipping containers carrying brown sugar from Brazil via Valencia in Spain in June 2016. Four of them became separated from the main cargo in Valencia and loaded on to a different ship.
Kenyan port police found 99.9kg of cocaine in plastic sacks hidden in the sugar on a shipping container addressed to his sugar-trading company in 2016. Pictured is Mr Marrion, left, with his father David, centre, and brother Hunter, right, outside the Kibera Magistrates Court
Tipped off by US drugs enforcement agents, Kenyan port police opened one of the containers on its arrival at Mombasa docks and found 99.9kg of cocaine in plastic sacks hidden in the sugar.
The anti-narcotics squad in Nairobi announced a triumph in having intercepted a record amount of cocaine, and immediately arrested and charged Mr Marrian and his company’s handling agent Roy Mwanthi.
The letter that saved him
Extracts from the DEA’s letter to Nairobi police about the Mombasa drug seizure:
‘It is clear from the intelligence that the load was placed inside the container unbeknownst of the owner of the sugar. This is a common occurrence used by drug traffickers.
‘The DEA would like to stress that … the company owning the consignment had no knowledge that the cocaine was secreted inside their shipment of sugar.’
Mr Marrian spent two weeks in police cells while bail of £500,000 – Kenya’s largest – was posted. He has described how he found himself in a cell packed with drunks at 3am.
‘There were ten people in there, most of them completely unconscious, which was actually a relief,’ he said. ‘There was nowhere to lie down, I just found a space and sat down on the concrete floor.
‘They moved me from cell to cell while we waited for my holding company to post the huge bail. Each time I was worried about violence.
‘I was shocked at the conditions and the food. Then I heard the prosecution wanted to keep me there, opposing my bail. I was in despair and my family was terrified for me.
‘I tried to be friendly and helpful with the police, thinking that would go well for me. This was my first brush with law in my life. I’ve never had so much as a speeding ticket.
‘Until this happened I had no concept of how legitimate international trade was vulnerable to criminal activity,’ he said.
DEA agent Wim Brown said: ‘We knew before it landed this cargo was never intended for Jack Marrian or any company in Kenya.’ Pictured is Mr Marrian with prosecutors and the cocaine
‘I had zero understanding of how drug gangs operate.’
Mr Marrian’s parents have lived in Kenya since he was five. He attended an international school with Tour de France winner Chris Froome.
Later he boarded at Marlborough public school, where the then Kate Middleton was also a pupil.
After Bristol University he worked for three years in London for sugar traders EDF Man, hoping that the business would eventually lead to him living in East Africa again.
For the past seven years he has run their subsidiary Mshala Commodities, living in Kenya near to his parents and four siblings.
US Drug Enforcement Administration agents were waiting in Valencia in summer 2016 for a known gang to access the drugs in one of the shipping containers – but there had been an underworld tip-off and the smugglers kept away.
The container carrying the cocaine was separated along with three others and loaded on to the HMS Positano headed for Oman and Mombasa.
Mr Marrian’s ancestral home is 14th century Cawdor Castle in the Scottish Highlands
DEA agent Wim Brown, based in Nairobi, told how the gangs place illicit drugs into companies’ cargo without their knowledge, and arrange for others to break into the containers through corrupt handlers in a foreign port where they remove the drugs and fit a new seal on the cargo.
It then reaches its destination without arousing suspicion.
Mr Brown explained: ‘We knew before it landed that this cargo was never intended for Jack Marrian or any company in Kenya.’
During one of more than a dozen hearings, the chief investigation officer, Police Corporal Sheila Kipsoi, broke down in the witness box when confronted with the letter obtained by the Mail that exonerated Mr Marrian and Mr Mwanthi.
Melvin Patterson, the DEA’s spokesman in Washington, said this letter should be produced in court ‘to establish Jack Marrian’s innocence’.
Yesterday, in a packed courtroom alongside handcuffed robbery and murder suspects, Mr Marrian fought back tears as he heard the prosecutor apply for his acquittal and announce that the director of public prosecutions accepted there was no case to answer.
He has been reporting weekly in person to the anti-narcotics squad in Nairobi as part of his bail conditions. ‘That could all be behind me now,’ he said.
‘My greatest wish is to be able to Google my own name without seeing pictures of myself in handcuffs or sitting in a courtroom.’
Mr Marrian is the son of Lady Emma and artist David Marrian. He is the grandson of the 6th Earl of Cawdor Hugh Campbell.
Cawdor Castle, long associated with Shakespeare’s Macbeth even though it was built centuries after the play’s setting, is now a tourist attraction.