31 May 1963 |
Toxteth, Liverpool, Merseyside, England
|Other names||Cocky, The Cock|
|Juvenile crime: Borstal
Armed robbery: 5 years
Shipment of drugs to the Netherlands: 12 years
Manslaughter: 4 years
Conspiracy to smuggle cannabis to Jersey: 13 years
|Criminal status||In prison|
Curtis "Cocky" Warren (born 31 May 1963) is an English gangster, who as Britain's most notorious drugs trafficker was formerly Interpol's Target One, and once listed on the Sunday Times Rich List.
Curtis Warren is the second son of Curtis Aloysius Warren, a seaman with the Norwegian Merchant Navy, and Antonia Chantre, the daughter of a shipyard boiler attendant. Warren grew up with his elder brother Ramon and sister Maria in the Granby district of Toxteth.
After dropping out of school at age 11, Warren was cautioned for various pieces of petty crime, before stealing a car aged 12. Brought before the Juvenile Court, he was placed under a supervision order for two years. A year later he appeared before the local magistrates' court for burglary, and was ordered to spend 24 hours at an attendance centre. Aged 15 in 1978, he was sentenced to three months in a detention centre. Aged 18 he was sent to borstal for assaulting the police, and in 1981 arrested during the Toxteth riots. In March 1982, Warren was sentenced to two years in jail for attacking a prostitute and her client; the case revealed that he was running a scam where he blackmailed a prostitute and her client known as rolling.
After Warren was released from jail, local police commented that he had turned his life around, a bouncer at a Liverpool nightclub. It was here that he learnt about the drugs trade - bouncers have the power to control who comes into and out of a venue. He learnt the drugs trade from controlling dealers' access and then befriending them, giving him an inside education.
Charrington and acquittal
In the late 1980s, he came to a working agreement with Middlesbrough trafficker Brian Charrington. In September 1991, using Charrington's personal yacht, the pair sailed to France on then-legal British visitor passports. They then travelled to Venezuela on British 10-year passports, and arranged a deal with the Cali cartel to smuggle cocaine in steel boxes, concealed in lead ingots.
On arrival in the UK, HM Customs and Excise cut open one ingot, but found nothing. Having let the shipment pass, they were later informed by Dutch police that the drugs were held in the steel boxes; by which time Charrington, Warren and the shipment were untraceable. However, a second shipment of 907 kilograms (2,000 lb) using the same method was already on its way from South America.
When the shipment landed in the UK in early 1992, Charrington, Warren and twenty-six others were placed under arrest, in a prosecution brought by HM Customs and Excise. However, in preliminary court procedures, it was revealed by police that Charrington was a police informant for the North-East Regional Crime Squad. HM Customs officials went forward with their prosecution, despite protests from his police "handlers" Harry Knaggs and Ian Weedon. In Newcastle Crown Court, it was alleged that Warren was so well informed, that he knew the length of the largest drill bit owned by HM Customs, and therefore the size/depth of the required ingots. Eventually, through Tory MP Tim Devlin, a meeting was arranged in which Customs was ordered to drop charges against Charrington on 28 January 1993. The case was dropped, with all accused including Warren acquitted of all charges.
It is alleged that on release, Warren purposefully walked past the HM Customs agents, saying: "I'm off to spend my £87 million from the first shipment and you can't touch me." Several months later, Knaggs was spotted by HM Customs officials driving a £70,000 BMW, previously registered to Charrington.
Warren returned to Liverpool. But with the combination of various ritual killings of several organised crime figures, and the police after him in light of a high-profile case failure, he decided he had to move.
In 1995, Warren relocated to a villa in Sassenheim in the Netherlands. It is estimated that by this time that he owned: 300+ houses in the North West of the UK; mansions and office blocks in Britain; the Holker Street grounds of the Barrow-in-Furness football club, Barrow A.F.C.; (he is quoted as saying, whilst flying over the ground, 'I own all of that') casinos in Spain; discos in Turkey; a vineyard in Bulgaria; land in the Gambia; and money stashed away in Swiss bank accounts. He could have retired rich, but decided to continue. Warren calls these allegations "ridiculous," and claims he owns only two small flats and a house in Liverpool, insisting his multimillionaire status has been "grossly exaggerated."
Monitored by police calling his contacts in the UK, it was now that Warren's photographic memory paid off: he never called contacts by their names, but code words; all of the Swiss bank account details were kept in his mind, never written down; he never kept accounts for his drug dealing business. The result was that he had an unlimited credit line from cartels in South America, and with cannabis traffickers in Turkey and Eastern Europe.
Dutch arrest and prison
On 24 October 1996, Brigade Speciale Beveiligingsopdrachten raided Warren's villa, and other property he owned in the Netherlands. Warren and several associates were arrested, with police finding three guns, ammunition; hand grenades, crates with 960 CS gas canisters, 400 kilograms (880 lb) of cocaine, 1,500 kilograms (3,300 lb) of cannabis resin, 60 kilograms (130 lb) of heroin, 50 kilograms (110 lb) of ecstasy, and 400,000 Dutch guilder plus 600,000 US Dollars in cash. The whole haul was estimated to be worth £125 million.
In 1998, Warren made his only appearance in the Sunday Times Richlist, which stated as a property developer his fortune was estimated at £40million. His conviction in the subsequent trial ensured his removal, but still makes him the only criminal to have made the list.
In court, Warren's plan was shown to be the shipment of South American cocaine to Bulgaria. Shipped to his vineyard, the drugs were then suspended in wine for onward shipment to the Netherlands and Liverpool in the UK. In total, police had retained illegal goods, drugs and wine valued at £125 million. Warren was sentenced to 12 years in jail, in the maximum security Nieuw Vosseveld prison in Vught. However, further forensic accounting investigation only found £20 million of his estimated £120 million fortune, and none of that could be legally touched or confiscated by Dutch police, British police or Interpol.
On the afternoon of 15 September 1999, Warren had a fight in the prison yard with Turkish national Cemal Guclu, who was serving a 20 year sentence for murder and attempted murder. Yelling abuse at Warren, Guclu walked towards him and tried to punch him in the face. Evading the punch, a short fight ensued, during which Guclu fell to the ground, and Warren kicked him in the head 4 times, Guclu got up and again went for Warren and was again punched to the floor. It was here he hit his head and became unconscious from which Guclu never recovered and died in hospital. In his trial defence in 2001, Warren said he "acted in self defence." Finding Warren guilty of manslaughter, the Dutch judge commented that "the defendant had used excessive violence," sentencing him to an additional four years with release scheduled in 2014.
In 2002, Dutch police still investigating the Bulgarian shipment obtained an asset seizure order against Warren. Although they could only find £180,000, they legally charged him to repay 26 million guilders ($14 million) under the proceeds of crime act, or face an added 5 years in prison; this would have extended his release date to 2019. After legal discussion ensued, Warren agreed to pay Dutch police 15 million guilders ($8 million).
Trafficking case and release
In February 2005, Warren was charged by Dutch authorities with running an international drugs smuggling cartel from his Dutch prison cell. Moved around six jails during his trial for his own safety, he was found guilty but successfully appealed, and was released from prison in June 2007. Refused transport by EasyJet, he was escorted directly by armed Dutch police to the ferry terminal at Vlissingen, he arrived in Harwich and travelled back to Liverpool driven in a Lexus.
Refused a passport by the British, Irish and Portuguese governments, the UK's Serious Organised Crime Agency then followed Warren's every move as part of a "lifetime offender management" programme, under the codename Operation Floss.
Under SOCA's "Operation Floss," just three weeks after being freed from prison in the Netherlands, on Saturday, 30 June 2007, SOCA called Jersey Police to inform them that Warren had arrived at Manchester Airport, and paid cash for a plane ticket. Observed in Jersey with known Liverpool associate and now Jersey resident Taffin Carter, the pair drove around in Carter's VW Golf to various locations, including the isolated St Catherine's Breakwater.
With drugs at three times the street price in Jersey compared with the UK or France, after Warren returned to the UK, Jersey Police created "Operation Koala," monitoring and bugging various locations, including phone boxes and the home of Taffin's girlfriend, Suzanne Scurr. From this they discovered that Welsh intended to travel to Amsterdam to meet with known Warren associate, Moroccan Mohammed Liazid. Jersey Police wanted to bug Welsh's hire car from St Malo, but were refused permission by French and Belgian police, saying it was a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. In what Judge Sir Richard Tucker later described as a "reprehensible" and "unlawful" act, Jersey Police, which is not signed into but bound by the ECHR, bugged the car anyway, and with Dutch Police, SOCA and Interpol monitored the transmissions.
In subsequent operations, SOCA monitored Warren in Liverpool, while Dutch police monitored police informant Liazid in Amsterdam, and co-ordinated information from various phone boxes to correlate who was speaking to whom. In the subsequent trial, it was revealed that Warren had three UK and one Jersey mobile, and had made 1,587 telephone calls in three weeks from these and phone boxes across the northwest and North Wales, including the Wirral, Liverpool, Manchester, Llangollen and Chester to Liazid.
In 2007, Warren was arrested in St Helier, over conspiracy to smuggle drugs; after a joint investigation involving Jersey police, Merseyside Police, SOCA, and law enforcement from Belgium, France and the Netherlands. He pleaded not guilty, and there ensued a two year legal argument over the legality of the information obtained by the bugging of Welsh's car. After agreement that there was sufficient evidence from other sources to substantiate the case, Jersey Police offered him a deal for pleading guilty of an 8 year jail term and no confiscation of assets: Warren turned this down. The Metropolitan Police agreed to lend Jersey Police a manned armoured prisoner transfer van, so Warren and his associates could be transferred safely during each day of the trial. The court heard that no drugs had been imported as the Jersey contacts had "failed to come up with the money". Senator Ben Shenton raised concerns that Warren's legal representation was at the cost of the Jersey taxpayer, while Progress Jersey raised concerns that the entire resources of the Jersey drug squad had been targeted at Warren.
Warren was found guilty on 7 October for conspiracy to smuggling cannabis. He was sentenced on 3 December 2009 to 13 years imprisonment for his part in the plot. After conviction, Warren was initially held in the high security wing of London's Belmarsh prison, over concerns with regards his security. Jersey Police are also starting an investigation into his wealth, with the aim of confiscating his gains from drugs trafficking.
After initially serving his sentence in HMP Full Sutton near York his is presently held at HMP Belmarsh. On two occasions he has unsuccessfully appealed to the Lieutenant Governor of Jersey General Sir John McColl for leave to appeal his conviction, once in March 2011, and secondly in September 2011.
Aborted preparations for release
In October 2013, the Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer successfully applied to the High Court for a Serious Crime Prevention Order. Designed to prevent reoffending, the SCPO impose restrictions on Warren’s access to mobile phones, telephone kiosks, not being able to hold multiple bank accounts, and limiting his ability to carry a maximum of £1,000 in cash. The restrictions will last for five years, and if Warren should break any of them he would serve an additional five years for any individual breach. The Serious Organised Crime Agency already have an SCPO granted against Warren to allow police to monitor his activity and finances. In November 2013 he was ordered to pay a £198m confiscation order, or face another ten years in jail. On 27 March 2014 it was reported that Warren had lost his appeal over his failure to pay the order, and so would remain in prison.
- Barnes, Tony; Richard Elias; Peter Walsh. 2003 Cocky: the rise and fall of Curtis Warren, Britain's biggest drug baron ISBN 978-0-9530847-7-7
- Barnes, Tony; Richard Elias; Peter Walsh. 2003 Cocky: the rise and fall of Curtis Warren, Britain's biggest drug baron ISBN 978-0-9530847-7-7[page needed]
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- O'Keefee, Greg (2007-07-23). "Curtis Warren arrested on new drugs charges". Liverpool Echo/icLiverpool (Trinity Mirror North West & North Wales Limited). Retrieved 2008-03-17.
- Anderson, Vicky (2007-10-05). "Warren appears in court". Liverpool Daily Post (Trinity Mirror North West & North Wales Limited). Retrieved 2008-03-17.
- "Gangster freed from Dutch prison". BBC News (BBC). 2007-06-14. Retrieved 2008-03-17.
- Lashmar, Paul (2007-06-17). "'Cocky' Warren, Rich-List drugs baron, returns to UK". The Independent (London). Retrieved 2008-03-17.
- "Britain's most successful gangster is out of prison and seems intent on reclaiming his empire". London: Daily Mail. 2007-06-23. Retrieved 2009-10-06.
- "Curtis Warren earned his Cocky nickname for good reason". London: The Telegraph. 2009-10-06. Retrieved 2009-10-06.
- Sweeney, John (2000-05-14). "Cocky". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2010-04-30.
- "Massive police operation foiled Curtis Warren's plans". Metro. 2009-09-07. Retrieved 2009-10-07.
- "Curtis Warren made 1,500 phone calls in little more than a month after leaving prison, court told". Liverpool Echo. 2009-09-29. Retrieved 2009-10-07.
- Jersey Evening Post:8 October 2009
- Jersey Evening Post:9 October 2009
- British drug kingpin, Curtis 'Cocky' Warren, sentenced to 13 years http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article6943245.ece
- http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article6864280.ece The Times:Oct-9-2009:British Drug Kingpin,Curtis 'Cocky' Warren,Found Guilty Of Smuggling
- "Accused 'Interpol's most wanted'". BBC News. 2009-09-18. Retrieved 2010-04-30.
- Robinson, Martin (4 October 2013). "Drugs baron who made the Sunday Times richlist is first person in the UK to have High Court restrictions put on banks and phones in bid to crush his empire". Daily Mail (London).
- BBC News: Curtis Warren loses appeal over £198m order