Anti lockdown gym boss exposed as ‘professional’ drug dealer trafficking cannabis


Nicholas Whitcombe first made headlines in 2020 when he refused to close his business, Body Tech Fitness, in Moreton, Wirral, Merseyside, during lockdown

Nick Whitcombe at BodyTech Fitness Gym in Moreton
Nick Whitcombe at BodyTech Fitness Gym in Moreton

A gym owner tangled in a drug smuggling plot was busted when police discovered text messages he sent to an associate, instructing him on how to “clean” his dirty money.

Nicholas Whitcombe first made headlines in 2020 when he refused to close his business, Body Tech Fitness, in Moreton, Wirral, Merseyside, during lockdown, claiming gyms were essential to the physical and mental health of the population.

However, Whitcombe was eventually fined £1,000 by Merseyside Police after a member of the public notified authorities when they saw the business was still open.

Most recently, Whitcombe has been described by a judge as a “professional drug dealer”, after his role in the trafficking scheme was exposed through an investigation by Jersey’s customs and immigration department.

Jersey’s Royal Court heard Whitcombe worked with Anthony Andrew Dryden in a plot valued at more than £54,000, the Liverpool Echo reported.

Between 2018 and 2019 the pair, both 31, were involved in a conspiracy to traffic cannabis resin into the island and launder the money, with Whitcombe operating from Merseyside and Dryden from Jersey.

Nick Whitcombe defied Tier 3 lockdown restrictions and refused to close Body Tech Fitness
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Nick Whitcombe/Instagram)

Mr Whitcombe was fine £1,000 for refusing to shut over coronavirus order
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Nick Capo Whitcombe/Instagram)

Prosecutors said Whitcombe would source the drugs and instruct people to send them from England to a third party at their work address in Jersey, the Bailiwick Express reported .

The packages were then picked up by Dryden, who sold them, collected the cash and sent it back to UK addresses provided by Whitcombe.

Between June and September of 2018 a total of 3.1kg was imported into Jersey and three exports of cash were sent out, totalling £16,750.

There appeared to be a “cooling off” period after contacts of Whitcombe sent a package to the wrong address before, in December 2018, Whitcombe told Dryden he was handing the UK side of their scheme over to a friend.

Using that contact Dryden then imported an estimated 500g to 1kg of cannabis in March 2019, and thanked Whitcombe for helping to set up the new supply line.

In June 2019, Dryden was also involved in importing 451.69g of cannabis resin alone.

Dryden was arrested the following month, and his mobile phone was seized.

Nick Whitcombe with his friend Jimmy McKay at BodyTech Fitness Gym in Moreton
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Colin Lane/Liverpool Echo)

The phone revealed text messages between him and Whitcombe that detailed their exploits, and Whitcombe’s suggestions to Dryden on how to launder money.

One text sent by Whitcombe, from Birkenhead, read: “You get to clean your money and you’ll slowly get better at it and eventually it’ll be your legit business.”

Following a gap of two years, in July 2021 Dryden was arrested again, and Whitcombe was arrested, brought back to Jersey and charged.

On Wednesday they were sentenced before Deputy Bailiff Robert MacRae, sitting with Jurats Jerry Ramsden, Joanne Kim Averty, and Gareth Hughes.

Prosecuting, Crown Advocate Richard Pedley recommended to the court that both men be sentenced to three years and six months in prison.

Advocate George Pearce, defending Dryden, said his client had asked him to “apologise to the court for his actions and for finding himself before the court again”.

Advocate Julian Gollop, representing Whitcombe, highlighted that two years had passed between the Crown becoming aware of the text exchanges.

Nick Whitcombe appeared on This Morning to protest at gym closures during lockdown

He also stressed that Whitcombe’s only involvement in one of the importations was to provide his friend’s details to Dryden and encourage him to respond.

Advocate Gollop argued Whitcombe should not be locked up, highlighting both his efforts to set up his own fitness business, and his community work, noting how he “fronted a national campaign during lockdown to have gyms and health services open and available to members of the public”.

It was that campaign that saw Whitcombe appear on national television as he urged the Government to allow gyms in areas hit by regional lockdowns to remain open back in Autumn 2020.

Whitcombe had received a £1,000 fine for keeping his Body Tech Fitness site in Moreton during a lockdown.

Advocate Gollop said: “Yes he’s prospered, yes he’s established his gym, he’s got his clothing business – but he’s worked hard for community, for charities, both locally and nationally.”

He submitted Whitcombe should be given a sentence of community service, which he said would enable him “to return to his businesses, his employees, and allow him to return to what he is good at”.

Summing up, however, Deputy Bailiff Robert MacRae said: “You are both 31-years-old, neither of you are young men… You are both, in the opinion of this court, professional drug dealers and certainly were at the time of these offences.”

He also described the money laundering allegation as a “serious case” as both men were sentenced to three years in prison.

Following the hearing, Rhiannon Small, Senior Manager at Jersey’s Customs and Immigration Service (JCIS), said: “The custodial sentences handed down by the Royal Court reflect the serious nature of drug trafficking and money laundering into our island.

“The detection and prevention of such offences remain a priority for JCIS.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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