A retired British couple arrested on a luxury cruise ship with nearly £1million worth of cocaine hidden in their suitcases led a jet-set lifestyle with no obvious way of paying for it, court papers show.
Roger and Sue Clarke went on luxury cruises worth £18,000 in two years before their arrest despite living on just £885 a month.
A handwritten diary written by retired secretary Mrs Clarke, 71, shows she was in Brazil, flew to Cuba and spent time in the Caribbean.
Roger and Sue Clarke, 72 and 71, were arrested on a luxury cruise ship with nearly £1million worth of cocaine hidden in their suitcases. Officers discovered cocaine hidden inside the lining of their four travel cases in cabin 469
She wrote: ‘March 12 2019. 16 days. Fly to Havana, Cuba. Cruise to Philipsburg, St Maarten; St John, Antigua and Barbados; Funchal, Madeira; Malaga, Alicante. Approx £4,000.’
The diary was among explosive court papers made public before the couple go on trial on Tuesday in Lisbon, Portugal, accused of drug smuggling over the nine kilograms of cocaine found in their possession on December 4, 2018.
The papers show former chef Roger, 72, and his wife will point the finger at a mystery businessman named ‘Lee’.
The pair (above) led a jet-set lifestyle with no obvious way of paying for it, court papers show. Roger and Sue Clarke went on luxury cruises worth £18,000 in two years before their arrest despite living on just £885 a month
The pair, who already have a conviction for drug smuggling on a cruise in Norway, told police the mystery entrepreneur ‘of Jamaican origin’ paid for their £6,800 Caribbean cruise.
Mr Clarke claimed the businessman asked him to pick up empty new suitcases in St Lucia and then buy exotic fruit that could be sold for a ‘massive profit’ in the UK.
The Clarkes, from Bromley in Kent, were arrested by Portuguese police acting on a tip-off when their cruise liner MC Marco Polo docked in Lisbon.
Officers discovered cocaine hidden inside the lining of their four travel cases in cabin 469.
The pair were asked if they were carrying anything illegal and ‘immediately’ said ‘No,’ the court papers reveal.
The Clarkes, who have been held in separate prisons in Portugal for the past nine and a half months, face up to 12 years in prison if convicted of drugs trafficking.
The court documents paint a fascinating picture of an elderly couple combining a seemingly run-of-the-mill lifestyle of bingo, golf and the occasional meal out with friends with a remarkable number of cruises to exotic locations.
A Portuguese police report said: ‘There is no doubt Roger and Susan Clarke had contact with drugs trafficking organisations during two trips in 2017 and another they made in 2018.
‘They were made to South America, to countries which were linked to the transport of cocaine to Europe.
‘While they made their first trip at the beginning of 2017 by plane, they made subsequent trips on cruise ships which allowed them to carry a larger amount of drugs.’
Portuguese police Inspector Carla Nunes insisted it made ‘no sense’ that mystery businessman paid for the cruise.
She said that Mr Clarke was unable to provide police with a phone number, email or name of any import-export firms the businessman entrepreneur was involved in.
Nunes added: ‘The age of the suspects added to the fact they were a married couple could lead one to suspect these cruises were really for fun when in truth they were part of an illicit project and their behaviour was designed just to make easy money with high profit.
‘They could both have been making between nearly £18,000 and £26,500 plus expenses per trip.’
Roger and Sue Clarke went on luxury cruises worth £18,000 in two years before their arrest despite living on just £885 a month. A handwritten diary written by retired secretary Mrs Clarke, 71, shows she was in Brazil, flew to Cuba and spent time in the Caribbean [File photo]
The Clarkes, who in 2010 were jailed in Norway for trafficking 240 kilos of cannabis resin, are expected to deny their involvement at Lisbon’s main criminal court.
Mrs Clarke told police after her arrest she had only met ‘Lee’ and his wife Claudette once, during a visit to their Spanish home which she marked in her diary for June 15 2018 after they jetted from Gatwick to Alicante.
The court papers show she told cops had no idea the cases her husband was carrying had drugs in them when he ‘showed up’ on their cruise liner with them.
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.
But the previously-unreleased court files show a Lisbon-based NCA liaison officer revealed when he passed on the tip to Portuguese police the couple had spoken only of visiting family in Kent at passport control when they returned to the UK about a week after leaving on their last Caribbean cruise and ‘made no mention of travelling to the Caribbean.’