A drug mule in the biggest heroin importation case tried in Bermuda was jailed yesterday for 30 years.
Josef Vlcek was caught trying to smuggle nearly three kilograms of the drug, worth $9.55 million, after he arrived on a flight from London in September 2017.
Vlcek, convicted by a jury’s unanimous verdict on Monday, declined to comment through his interpreter before Puisne Judge Carlisle Greaves passed sentence.
Mr Justice Greaves admitted that “some will question why, in a case in which the defendant has killed no one, he received a sentence of 30 years”.
He added a sentence for premeditated gun murder by a gang member could be 35 years to life.
The judge told the Supreme Court: “The addictive and destructive nature of this drug perhaps brings it into the range of those who commit violence.
“A gangster may have taken the life of one person and affected by his action the lives of several others.
“I think it likewise with our drug dealers, particularly those who deal in particularly hard drugs.
“Diamorphine is at the high level of addictive drugs, surpassed only by fentanyl. It is said to be 50 times more lethal than cocaine.”
Mr Justice Greaves added: “Although the violence is not direct in this case, it is still as cruel, in many cases, as the direct violence in homicide cases.”
He said the case was “the greatest volume of heroin ever imported into Bermuda for which someone has been tried”.
He told Vlcek: “In this jurisdiction, drug sentences are particularly heavy. There are good reasons for that.
“The motivation for bringing drugs into Bermuda is high because the profits are high. Perhaps some of the highest in the world.
“Those who take the risk to benefit from this lucrative market must take the responsibility of knowing that their penalty will be severe when caught.”
Vlcek, 49, from the Czech Republic, went on trial this month charged with the importation of diamorphine, the technical name for heroin and with possession of the drug with intent to supply.
He will serve 30-year concurrent terms with time already spent in custody taken into account.
Vlcek told the jury he was an artist and had planned to stage an exhibition of his work.
He claimed he thought he was smuggling gold and jewels.
The three packages of heroin stashed in the lining of his two suitcases were spotted by customs officers at the airport.
Nicole Smith, representing the Crown, asked for a sentence of 20 to 25 years, with an extra 50 per cent added to reflect the seriousness of the case.
Susan Mulligan, the defence lawyer, argued that sentencing should not be “a mathematical exercise” based on the amount of drugs, which Mr Justice Greaves said was more than four times bigger than the courts had dealt with before.
Ms Mulligan said Vlcek was “not a master manipulator” but a lone man “lured by the idea of having a great art exhibition”.
Ms Mulligan added: “He is a foreign national who has already suffered being in a foreign culture, no contact with family and no one here to assist him.
“His time in custody has been and will continue to be very, very difficult.”
The defence highlighted the case of Janis Zegelis, a Latvian man jailed for 25 years in 2012 after he arrived in Bermuda in a boat with more than 164kg of cocaine and a firearm.
But Mr Justice Greaves rejected the comparison and said Bermuda’s courts always gave harsher sentences for heroin which was “a more lethal addictive drug”.
Ms Smith mentioned other cases in which drug couriers form overseas had been jailed and told the court that the narcotics trade had tempted “defendants from jurisdictions afar”.
Omar Davy, a Jamaican national, was jailed for 18 years last month after he tried to bring 220 grams of heroin into the island.
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