UK man receives 7-1/2 year sentence for smuggling cocaine to pay poker debt

Haley Hintze
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Posted on: October 25, 2021 1:09 pm EDT

A 56-year-old British man has received a 7-1/2 year prison sentence for attempting to smuggle cocaine into the Channel Island of Jersey in an attempt to pay off a £60,000 poker debt. Andrew John Bennett, 56, of greater London, was arrested on April 30 by Jersey customs agents, who discovered Bennett’s luggage contained a blue plastic baggie containing high-grade cocaine valued between £18,000 and £24,000 (up to US $33,000).

After being arrested, Bennett confessed that the cocaine was being used to pay off a poker debt he’d incurred in a previous trip to the Channel Islands, where several semi-private poker clubs operate. Bennett claimed to be a winning player who lost the £60,000 while playing drunk, and who was then physically threatened if he didn’t find a way to pay the debt.

According to the Jersey Evening Post, Bennett’s defense advocate, Julia-Ann Dix, said that Bennett was “asked” to pay the money back straight away “or do something to pay his debt,” or “something would happen to his family.”

Jersey and nearby Guernsey are the two largest of the Channel Islands, sited just off the shore of northern France. The Channel Islands are self-governing dependencies of the Crown, despite their proximity to France. They rely heavily on a tourism and entertainment economy, and the islands feature a blend of English and French culture.

Sentence includes time for refusing to unlock smart devices

Whether true or not, Bennett’s claims of coercion did align with another part of the tale. However, that part just ended up increasing his sentence. First, Bennett received a sentence of six years and three months on the cocaine-smuggling charge. On top of that, the judge in Jersey’s Royal Court’s Superior Number, where the case was heard, tacked on an additional 15 months for Bennett’s refusal to unlock his iPad and iPhone as part of the investigation. It’s only the second time in Jersey history that a second sentence involving locked electronics has been added to a defendant’s overall term.

Investigators would’ve had multiple reasons for wanting access to the devices. First, they could’ve determined if the threats Bennett claimed to have received were truly legitimate. They could also have searched for evidence that Bennett was a habitual drug smuggler, rather than this being a one-time circumstance as he claimed to the court. Bennett claimed to be a successful poker player as well as being an in-home care provider, though courts around the globe handled cases where supposedly successful players have actually been funding their play through other means, such as drug smuggling.

High-rolling international player Salman Behbehani is accused of being one such poker-playing drug smuggler, for example. Behbehani, who was rumored to be the infamous “Pill Ivey” who supplied drugs to players in exclusive games, was arrested in July in Ibiza on similar drug smuggling charges. Behbehani remains in detention for allegedly bringing a virtual pharmacy of illegal drugs into Ibiza in July after arriving on a private jet from Las Vegas with more than two dozen other players, family members, and friends.

Featured image source: States of Jersey Police