Cocaine trial florist Gary Pattison had £40k cash
A FLORIST accused of smuggling £23.5 million of cocaine hidden in Valentine's Day flowers had more than £40,000 in cash at his properties, a court heard.
Gary Pattison, 52, was discovered with 84kg of "high-quality" cocaine hidden among yellow chrysanthemums in the back of his truck as he returned to Hull from Holland.
The drugs were hidden in three long rectangular boxes among bouquets and hundreds of loose flowers for Valentine's Day orders.
Drugs squad detectives from the Serious Crime Unit told a jury at Sheffield Crown Court they raided Mr Pattison's home in Beverley, his haulage business and his flower shop in Bransholme and recovered thousands of pounds in cash.
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Prosecutor Paul Mitchell said: "Detectives searched his home in Beverley, his business premises and his person and found significant sums of cash. The sums were in excess of £40,000 sterling and there was a significant amount of foreign currency as well."
Senior drug detective Carl Mather told the jury he investigates international drug trafficking.
He said drug dealers handle large amounts of cash that they are unable to place in banks or spend without raising suspicion.
Mr Mather said: "They deal in hard cash.
"They have trouble legitimising the amounts of money they make.
"Banks, casinos, estate agents and luxury car dealers are obliged to inform the authorities when people are using large amounts of cash for the goods they provide.
"The dealers have the cash but they don't know what to do with it."
Mr Pattison had taken the P&O Ferry to Rotterdam and drove to the world's largest flower market in Aalsmeer, Holland, to purchase flowers on February 8.
It was a trip he regularly made to replenish his flower shop, Sharron Pattison, in Bransholme's North Point shopping centre.
Mr Mather told the court the flower market had been used previously for drugs trafficking in Europe.
"Aalsmeer Flower Market has had that role because of the amount of produce it deals with," he said. "It is the biggest flower market in the world.
"Just the sheer volume of flowers and the way the flowers are packaged offers opportunity.
"The Netherlands is the transit for most of the controlled drugs that head on to the streets of the UK, with the exception of cannabis."
Mr Pattison returned from the market on February 10 into Hull's King George Dock and it was then port officials stopped his truck and unloaded the flowers.
He was driving the truck that belonged to his haulage company, called Sharron Pattison Logistics.
Port officials noticed three of the boxes were a lot heavier than the rest.
It was the sixth time Mr Pattison's van had been stopped in the past four years but the court heard nothing illegal had previously been found. He had been stopped once leaving the UK and four previous times when he returned to Hull.
On one occasion he was found carrying cash but was allowed to carry on.
Mr Mitchell said Mr Pattison's fingerprints were found on two of the boxes of drugs and said he must have noticed their weight and different appearance when he loaded them into his truck.
The boxes weighed 30kg compared with the other flower boxes, which weighed between 5kg to 8kg.
The court heard the three boxes of drugs were up to six times heavier than the other boxes of flowers.
Mr Pattison told officers: "You will be surprised how heavy flowers are."
He told port officials he had no knowledge of the drugs and denies a charge of illegally importing Class A drugs into the UK.
The court heard allegations that Mr Pattison's haulage business was in financial difficulties, which could have been the motivation for drug smuggling.
Mr Pattison, of Ferry Lane, Woodmansey, runs a florist, property rental business and haulage firm in Hull.
The court heard despite owning the haulage company, the only trip Mr Pattison made for the business was to collect flowers from Holland every fortnight.
Officers from the UK Border Agency were joined by detectives from the Serious Organised Crime Agency to search his wagon as he disembarked from the Rotterdam to Hull ferry.
The court heard the drugs would have been worth £23.5 million if sold on the streets.
The cocaine was 90 per cent purity – usually cocaine sold to users has a 10 per cent purity.
Mr Pattison denies importing illegal Class A drugs into the country and the trial continues.