Florist on trial over £23m cocaine haul found in Valentine's Day chrysanthemums
A FLORIST has gone on trial accused of smuggling £23.5 million of cocaine into the city hidden in a shipment of Valentine's Day flowers.
Gary Pattison, 52, was arrested when port officials discovered 84kg of "high-quality" cocaine hidden among yellow chrysanthemums in the back of his truck.
The drugs were hidden in three long rectangular boxes among bouquets and hundreds of loose flowers destined for Valentine's Day orders.
Mr Pattison was driving the truck that belonged to his haulage company called Sharron Pattison Logistics and was delivering the flowers to his shop, also called Sharron Pattison, at North Point shopping centre in Bransholme.
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He told port officials he had no knowledge of the drugs and denies a charge of illegally importing Class A drugs into the UK.
Sheffield Crown 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."
Prosecutor Paul 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 allegations that Mr Pattison's haulage business was in financial difficulties, which could have been the motivation for drug smuggling.
Mr Mitchell said: "The lorry was stopped and searched and the drugs were found inside three boxes on a trolley that contained flowers. The boxes that contained the drugs had the defendant's fingerprints on them.
"The drugs found were extremely valuable. Cocaine found on the streets is usually 10 per cent purity – these drugs were more than 90 per cent pure.
"They had a wholesale value of more than £4 million but, had they been successfully imported, the impact would be far greater because once in the hands of drug dealers and divided up and sold on the streets it would have been worth more than £23 million."
The prosecutor said Mr Pattison claimed he had no idea the drugs were in the back of his lorry.
"If he was not involved and didn't know about it, how on earth would the people who owned the drugs have got the drugs back," said Mr Mitchell.
"Somebody owned them, somebody wanted the £23 million that could be realised. How, if Mr Pattison had nothing to do with it, would they realise that ambition?"
Mr Mitchell said the discovery of Mr Pattison's fingerprints on the outside of two of the drug boxes was significant.
He said: "He must have lifted these boxes and he must have been aware at the very least of how much heavier they were and how different they were from the boxes containing the flowers.
"The flower boxes were tightly packed on the cages and it would have been impossible to touch it after the case was loaded.
"It must mean he handled them before they were placed on the trolley and he must have, at the very least, been aware of their weight."
He told the jury they would be left in "no doubt" Mr Pattison was involved in smuggling drugs into the country after hearing all the evidence and the circumstances of his arrest.
Sheffield Crown Court heard Mr Pattison had taken the P&O Ferry to Rotterdam and travelled to the world's largest flower market in Aalsmeer in Holland to purchase flowers on February 8.
It was when he returned on February 10 into King George Dock Hull that port officials stopped his truck and unloaded the flowers.
They noticed three of the boxes were a lot heavier than the rest.
Mr Pattison, of Ferry Lane, Woodmansey, runs a florist, property rental business and haulage firm in the city.
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.
Mr Pattison denies importing illegal Class A drugs into the country and the trial continues.