Page last updated at 09:51 GMT, Wednesday, 7 October 2009 10:51 UK

Gangster 'addicted to drug dealing'

By Robert Hall
BBC News

Curtis Warren
Curtis Warren was once said to have assets worth 80m

It was not a scene you would normally associate with Jersey.

On a grey September morning outside the gates of Jersey's La Moye Prison, heavily armed police officers patrolled the perimeter road, while dogs scoured the surrounding farmland.

But this was just part of a daily routine which has become familiar here over the past two years, precautions designed to ensure that one man completed his journey to and from Jersey's courts.

Travelling at high speed, in an armoured van borrowed from the Metropolitan Police, Curtis Warren was experiencing the latest chapter in a long criminal career.

A career that began on the deprived streets of Toxteth on Merseyside, where Warren turned to petty crime at the age of 12.

Police there say he learned about the lucrative potential of the drugs trade while working as a bouncer.

He is said to be highly intelligent, with a photographic memory for phone numbers and bank details, and direct links with major drugs suppliers.

You've got to think of him not really as a drug trafficker but as a commodities broker because that essentially, in the end, is what he was
Peter Walsh, biographer of Warren

Through the 1980s and 1990s, Cocky Warren, as he became known, worked his way up the criminal ladder, becoming one of the wealthiest underground figures ever.

He even made his way onto the Sunday Times Rich List, with his income from drug deals estimated at that time to be £80m.

He is said to have owned hundreds of properties on Merseyside, and across Europe.

Peter Walsh, co-author of Warren's biography, said he was, first and foremost, a businessman.

"You've got to think of him not really as a drug trafficker but as a commodities broker because that essentially, in the end, is what he was," he said.

"He was no different in a way from somebody who works on Wall Street, or the City of London, or the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.

"Only he dealt in an illegal commodity, which was drugs."

Jail sentences

Hardly surprising that Warren was targeted as Interpol's most wanted.

In 1996 a plan to import cocaine through the Netherlands hidden in lead ingots landed him in a Dutch jail. Police believe that he continued to run his business from his prison cell and may, even then, have been planning his move on the Jersey drugs market.

He was jailed for 12 years and received an extra four years in 2001 for kicking an inmate to death.

Curtis Warren
Security at Warren's Jersey court appearance has been tight

Three weeks after his early release in 2007, undercover officers who had been watching a local man called Jonathan Welsh, spotted him with a new arrival at Jersey airport. It was Warren.

At the island's police headquarters, and at the UK's Serious Organised Crime Agency, alarm bells began to ring.

In the weeks that followed Operation Flare monitored Warren, Welsh, and four other men.

They were secretly tracked around Jersey and hundreds of phone calls from phone boxes and mobiles were recorded to and from a contact in Amsterdam.

In a move which brought calls for the case to be dismissed, officers from Jersey's drugs squad even bugged a car travelling through France, Belgium and the Netherlands, without permission of their European counterparts.

Conspiracy claim

They believed Warren was masterminding a plan to bring 180kg of cannabis resin from Amsterdam to a fishing port in Normandy, then by boat to Jersey.

He seems to have become addicted to it as a way of life, as a business, as a source of his reputation
Peter Walsh

Hidden microphones recorded him, with Welsh, as they checked out a possible landing site in an isolated cove.

All six men were arrested in Jersey before the plan could be put into effect. The prosecution at their trial claimed that, despite the absence of the drugs, or significant amounts of cash, there was clear evidence of the conspiracy.

In court, Warren listened attentively to the evidence against him, often passing notes to defence counsel, who suggested police had been so desperate to arrest him that they were prepared to bend the rules.

In the end jurors, who had been under police protection throughout the trial, were convinced by the evidence they had heard and seen.

Warren returned to prison to await sentence in a blur of fast vehicles and wailing sirens - a reminder, said senior police officers, that when it comes to habitual criminals, they will always be watching.

But his biographer said it would be hard for Warren to kick his habit.

"Maybe he would like to see himself back in the Liverpool underworld of drugs when he gets out," he said.

"He seems to have become addicted to it as a way of life, as a business, as a source of his reputation, it kind of becomes what he is and his identity becomes tied up in it."

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