In Kenya British aristocrat's son faces drugs trial

Marrian and Mwanthi are due in court in Nairobi on Monday at the start of their trial. Both deny the charges.

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British national Jack Alexander Wolf Marrian (C), flanked by police officers, appears in court in Nairobi on August 8, 2016, where he faces charges of trafficking 100 kilos of cocaine from Brazil to the port of Mombasa play

British national Jack Alexander Wolf Marrian (C), flanked by police officers, appears in court in Nairobi on August 8, 2016, where he faces charges of trafficking 100 kilos of cocaine from Brazil to the port of Mombasa

(AFP)
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A British aristocrat's son due to face trial in Kenya on Monday for smuggling 100 kilogrammes (220 pounds) of cocaine knew nothing about the illegal shipment, foreign investigators believe.

Jack Marrian, a 31-year-old sugar trader, faces a possible life sentence if found guilty of smuggling cocaine worth $6 million (5 million euros).

But the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) -- which worked with Spanish police to track and seize the shipment in late July -- believe Marrian and his co-accused, Kenyan clearing agent Roy Mwanthi, knew nothing of the drugs concealed in a sugar consignment from Brazil.

"We got information from our office in Spain. The intelligence was that their Spanish counterparts had information about a container that had suspected drugs in it," said Melvin Patterson, a DEA spokesman.

Spanish police believe the drugs were intended to be unloaded in Valencia and sold on the lucrative European market, but something went wrong and they were shipped onward to Kenya.

"A criminal group based in Valencia, Spain, tried to get cocaine out of a container, but failed," Patterson said.

'Rip-on, rip-off'

When the shipment arrived in Mombasa, Kenyan anti-narcotics police discovered the plastic-wrapped bricks of cocaine hidden among sacks of sugar as well as a duplicate seal.

Experts say this is a sure sign of the "rip-on, rip-off" or "blind hook" smuggling technique whereby cartels secretly stash their illegal products inside a legitimate consignment removing the drugs at a stop en route and replacing the broken seal with the replica.

"The Spanish stressed that this was a 'rip-off' load and the recipient of the container would have no knowledge that it was being used to transport drugs," said Patterson.

Marrian and Mwanthi are due in court in Nairobi on Monday at the start of their trial. Both deny the charges.

His case has caused a sensation in his native Britain, where the aristocratic background of his mother Lady Emma Clare Campbell of Cawdor and his attendance at top private schools, including the alma mater of Prince William's wife Catherine, have caught the eye of the press.

Sources familiar with the case suggest the two men were taken into custody because of public and political pressure to make an arrest after news of the bust broke in local media.

Kenya is a hub for heroin trafficking via the so-called "southern route" -? from the poppy fields of Afghanistan and Pakistan to consumers in Europe via the Indian Ocean and East Africa ?- but cocaine trafficking is less common with West Africa the far more popular transshipment point for moving the drug from South America to Europe.

The domestic market for cocaine in East Africa is growing but remains small while drugs trafficking in Kenya, experts say, is tightly controlled by politically connected local cartels.

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