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British OAPs ‘caught with £2m of cocaine’ on cruise charged with drug smuggling

A pair of British pensioners arrested on a cruise liner with £2million of cocaine in suitcases in their cabin have been officially charged with drug smuggling.

Roger and Sue Clarke, aged 72 and 71, from St Mary’s Cray, south London, have also been told they may be kept behind bars in Portugal until they come to trial.

A newly-published indictment against the couple also reveals that police have been unable to identify the paymaster who allegedly gave them the cocaine.  

Roger and Sue Clarke, 72 and 71, were arrested in Lisbon in December last year after police say they found 9kg of cocaine in their cabin, and have now been charged with smuggling

Former lorry driver Roger and wife Sue were arrested on December 4 last year in Lisbon after their UK-bound ship docked from the Bahamas.

Portuguese police acting on a tip-off from British officers boarded the MC Marco Polo during the second-to-last stop of the couple’s 33-day, £3,000-a-head transatlantic cruise.

Nine kilos of the class-A drug were found hidden inside four suitcases in the couple’s cabin, police said.

Roger had bragged to his fellow passengers of buying the suitcases for a bargain price on the Caribbean island of St Lucia, Portuguese news reports said.

A nine-page indictment made public on Tuesday reveals Portuguese prosecutors have shelved their investigation into the British pair’s alleged paymasters.

It says: ‘Despite all the inquiries carried out to try to identify the people believed to have recruited them to transport the cocaine, it has not been possible to discover these individuals’ full identities or determine their whereabouts.’

Outlining the decision to charge them with drugs trafficking, prosecutors said: ‘The suspects acted together with the specific purpose of receiving and carrying with them the cocaine and the objective of handing it over to a third party in exchange for money.

The pair have been told they will likely be held in jail until their trial, while cops say they have been unable to track down the paymaster who allegedly gave them the drugs

The pair have been told they will likely be held in jail until their trial, while cops say they have been unable to track down the paymaster who allegedly gave them the drugs

‘They were aware of its characteristics, nature and quantity.

‘The suspects, acting freely, voluntarily and consciously, joined forces and combined efforts knowing that the transport and commercialisation of cocaine is prohibited and punishable by law.’

They also crushed the Clarkes’ hopes of release on bail before their trial by describing the evidence against them as ‘extremely strong’ and insisting there was a danger they would commit further offences, impede the investigation or abscond if they were let out of prison.

State prosecutors have not said if the couple, who have served prison sentences in Norway after being caught smuggling cannabis, had co-operated with authorities following their arrests.

As well as the cocaine, the indictment shows police seized a Samsung phone with a SIM card inside, an iPad and a hardback 2018 diary with ‘handwritten notes and three small pieces of paper with names and contacts on’

Under Portuguese law the crime they have been charged with carries a prison sentence of up to 12 years.

Former lorry driver Roger, described in the indictment as a retired chef from St Mary’s Cray near Bromley, Kent, is being held at a men’s prison in Lisbon where he will turn 73 in October.

His wife, a retired secretary from Northampton, is being held at Tires Womens’ Prison, the Lisbon jail she was sent a day after her arrest.

She has spent every day there since, bar one when she was rushed to hospital suffering a hypertensive crisis believed to have been caused by stress.

Portuguese police also revealed that they had intended to arrest the pair in the Madeiran capital Funchal on the ship’s first European stop from the Caribbean. 

They had to delay the arrests until the boat reached Lisbon because bad weather meant the Funchal stop was cancelled.

They also said it was possible the nine kilos of cocaine they discovered hidden inside false bottoms in the couple’s suitcases were bound for London – as the next stop after Lisbon was Tilbury, on the River Thames.

The pair had just sailed from St Lucia to Lisbon on board the Marco Polo cruise ship (file image) and were bound for London when they were arrested

The pair had just sailed from St Lucia to Lisbon on board the Marco Polo cruise ship (file image) and were bound for London when they were arrested

The Clarkes had spent several years living in a rented villa in Guadamar del Segura near Alicante on the Costa Blanca after emigrating from the UK.

Roger, Sue’s second husband, told expat neighbours he had been jailed in the past for smuggling cigarettes but it emerged after his arrest he and his wife had done prison time in Norway for smuggling cannabis.

He was jailed for five years and Sue for three years nine months. They had fled the country while on bail following their arrests in September 2004 and were handed their sentences after being extradited back to the country.

It later emerged they had been on at least 16 drug-smuggling trips to Norway in an old Nissan car, importing cannabis worth £1million over 15 months.

Although Roger was born Roger Button, he is referred to in the Portuguese state prosecution indictment by his current surname of Clarke.

Reports after his arrest in Lisbon last year said he had bragged to fellow holidaymakers on the couple’s Caribbean cruise that they paid just £160 for the four holdalls the drugs were found in on the island of St Lucia and claimed the luggage would have cost them £1,500 in Harrods.

Former friends Paul and Pauline Craven revealed after the Clarkes were held that their relationship soured when they refused Roger’s offer of a free all-expenses-paid transatlantic cruise.

The couple, who live near Guardamar del Segura, said the invite came with the condition they had to bring back designer suitcases he would buy for them cheap in the Caribbean and resell to Harrods for a massive profit.

Although the street value of the nine kilos the Clarkes were caught with was initially put at £2million, experts later said they thought the cocaine was worth around £1million.


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