Recession ‘drove businessman to drug dealing’

The High Court in Edinburgh
The High Court in Edinburgh
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A businessman who claimed the recession drove him to high-value drug dealing has been jailed for four years and three months.

• Alexander Smith jailed after being caught with £200,000 of cocaine

• Officers also found evidence of cannabis cultivation

• Recession forced one-time electrician to drug dealing, defence claim

Alexander Smith, 30, was caught by police with £200,000 of cocaine in a black Range Rover, and officers found the remnants of cannabis cultivation when they searched his home and his parents’ house.

Smith, of McGregor Road, Cumbernauld, North Lanarkshire, admitted being concerned in the supplying of the two drugs on 20 December, 2011.

The defence solicitor-advocate, Maurice Smyth, told the High Court in Edinburgh that Smith was a first offender and “no stranger to honest, hard work.”

He was a fully-qualified gas central heating technician and had his own business until the middle of 2011.

“With the recession, his business and the business of others on whom he depended collapsed due to the inability of customers to pay on time or pay at all. The result of this was the inexorable onset of debt.

“The lack of gainful employment left him profoundly depressed and disorientated and he was unable to cope with the fact he was doing nothing,” said Mr Smyth.

Others had recognised Smith’s vulnerability, and he was enticed into delivering and collecting quantities of drugs.

“It was put to him in a very sanitised way and he had no idea about the ramifications or implications beyond the job he was asked to do,” said Mr Smyth.

The court heard that police had been watching Smith and saw him leave his parents’ home in Bishopbriggs, East Dunbartonshire, and drive away in a Range Rover. He parked in front of a Travelodge Hotel in Cumbernauld, and left the vehicle for a short time before returning with a carrier bag which officers noted “appeared heavy.”

He drove off but was stopped a few minutes’ later.

“He was asked whether there were any controlled drugs within the vehicle. He replied that he didn’t know, that he had just picked something up but he didn’t know what it was,” said the advocate-depute, David Taylor.

The carrier bag was in the front passenger footwell and contained five blocks of cocaine, weighing in total some five kilograms with a potential value of £200,000.

Mr Taylor said police went to Smith’s parents’ home and a search of the loft revealed “the remnants of cannabis cultivation” and cannabis worth up to £7,970.

At his own home, officers recovered electrical equipment which could be used in cultivation, and an industrial hydraulic press and metal plates, along with a known cutting agent of cocaine.

“The (press and plates) were recognised as equipment used in the adulteration and supply of cocaine at a significant level,” said Mr Taylor.

Lord Burns said Smith had admitted serious offences, which involved a substantial quantity of a class A drug, cocaine, and equipment which could be used in its supply at a significant level. The description of the offences showed he was more than a deliverer and a collector.

“I have had full regard to your good work record which you have been pursuing since you left school, and I take account of the fact you are a first offender. But I consider custody is the only appropriate sentence,” he added.

The judge said the term would have been five years but could be discounted because Smith had pleaded guilty.