I Smuggled Liquid MDMA Hidden In Gin Bottles Onto An Island

"I knew the profit would easily pay for my Ibiza holiday and all of the summer festivals."
LB
illustrated by Lily Blakely
Rebecca Tidy
as told to Rebecca Tidy
September 29, 2020, 8:15am
mdma
VICE's column asking drug dealers not just what they're selling, but how they're doing.

JMV*, 22, is a convicted MDMA trafficker and is currently serving a ten-year prison sentence on Guernsey, an island in the English Channel between Britain and France.

VICE: Hey, you around?
JMV: Not exactly. Unless you’re in Guernsey Prison? Then I might know a guy.

Is it your first prison sentence?
No, I’ve done multiple short sentences for drugs. I got caught importing mephedrone when I was 16 years old, then there were a few instances of possession with the intent to supply, but that was only weed.

How did you end up importing illegal drugs at the age of 16?
I had some contacts on the UK mainland because we lived in Southampton for a bit after my mum moved the family there when I got caught with weed at secondary school in Guernsey. She thought I needed a fresh start in a new place, but it actually just made me worse.

I found cheap suppliers for most drugs before I even left school, and it meant I could bring drugs such as mephedrone and weed back to Guernsey for profit when the family returned. It was a no-brainer. But it does mean I’ve never built up a legit career, like my mates.

How did you get involved in smuggling liquid MDMA in gin bottles?
I ended up in jail for a short time last year for doing some stupid shit while I was high. I got chatting to a couple guys from Essex, and discovered they worked for a major London drug trafficking firm. Their bosses imported high-purity MDMA from an underground Dutch lab. The manufacturers dissolved the Mandy in water, before sending it to the UK in those fancy-ass gin bottles, with a wax seal.

It was such a simple but clever idea. It meant the MDMA could pass through customs undetected, as the bottles looked brand new and unopened. And obviously, glass is impermeable unlike plastic, so customs’ drugs dogs couldn’t smell the contents. The boys I’d met were responsible for crystallising the MDMA once it arrived in London, in mass quantities. They told me it looked no different to standard Mandy. It was genius, and I was fascinated.

What happened after you left prison last year?
I stayed at my grandma’s apartment. She’s more laid back than my mum. I went out partying loads and sold a bit of Mandy and weed to my mates. It was pretty good, to be honest.

But whenever I bought new stock I’d find myself thinking about how cheap MDMA was on the mainland. I was paying £50 or £60 a gram wholesale from my Guernsey-based supplier, yet I could get high-quality shit for £2.50 a gram if I imported it myself. It was gnawing away at me, as I knew the profit would easily pay for my Ibiza holiday and all of the summer festivals. So I scraped together the cash for a London “business” trip.

How was London?
I’d picked up some wax-sealed gin bottles from Duty Free, then met up with my contacts to buy the crystallised MDMA. It cost £2,500 for a kilo. Because I needed the empty gin bottles to transport the MD back to Guernsey, eight of us crowded into a Shoreditch hotel room and got drunk before going out. We did the whole cheesy London tourist thing and went to Ballie Ballerson, Beigel Bake and all those places.

Then you dissolved the MDMA into water?
Yes. The process wasn’t always that straightforward, though. There was some cheap MD kicking around, and I gave that a whirl, but it just wouldn’t dissolve. I heated and stirred it for absolutely ages, but it was still full of bits, so fuck knows what that was cut with.

How did the actual smuggling process go?
It was pretty straightforward. I just carried the newly-resealed gin bottle back onto the ferry, inside my luggage. I was nervous, especially when I was getting off the boat, because of customs. I felt my heart pounding in my chest as I walked past their desk, trying to look like a normal passenger. Once I’d passed I wouldn’t dare look back. I’d keep walking, and gradually the adrenaline was replaced by feelings of elation and relief. It was fucking intense, man.

Even though Guernsey is part of the UK, it’s got very strict drug laws. I’m in jail with a lad who got three years for the possession of one ecstasy pill, and it was his first offence. This means you can charge ridiculous prices for drugs if you can smuggle them in.

So you liked the excitement?
Yeah. Nothing compares to the thrill of getting past four miserable-looking customs officers, with thousands of pounds’ worth of class A drugs in your backpack. It was addictive.

Did you sell the MDMA as a liquid?
Nah, I poured the liquid into a pan and put it on a low temperature for a few hours so the water evaporated. As long as you don’t do it too quickly, it looks the same as before it got dissolved.

Who were your customers?
Mostly guys in their twenties. They’d buy a few grams and split the cost with their mates. There’s only 70,000 people on the whole island, so I knew most of my customers from school or nights out. Sometimes I’d sell from the busy bars and pubs, as people were willing to pay more after a few drinks – but that was high-risk, as I never knew if there was a police officer or informant watching. It’s socially acceptable to grass people up over here. The police offer good financial rewards to informants.

Was it lucrative?
Even though Guernsey is part of the UK, it’s got very strict drug laws. I’m in jail with a lad who got three years for the possession of one ecstasy pill, and it was his first offence. This means you can charge ridiculous prices for drugs if you can smuggle them in. Nobody thinks twice about paying £120 plus for a gram of MDMA. So the profits for people smuggling kilos of MDMA into Guernsey are easily into the tens of thousands of pounds.

How did you spend your profit?
It went on nights out and trips to festivals, plus alcohol and other drugs. I spent quite a bit on designer clothes, including Hugo Boss tracksuits, Stone Island tees and a few Off-White hoodies.

How did you get caught?
A customs officer searched my rucksack and his colleague removed a bottle of booze that had around 250g of MD dissolved in it. I could see it in his hand while he asked me the purpose of my trip – so I lunged at him and knocked him over in the hope of destroying the evidence, but sadly the bottle didn’t smash. A police officer arrested me at that point, and I realised I’d been rumbled. I got ten years.

How’s prison?
It’s not too bad. The first few weeks were annoying, as I adapted to the lack of freedom again. My best mate’s on a short sentence in here right now, and a few other pals too.

The lads in prison laugh at me because I won’t let the laundry orderly [a working inmate] clean my clothes. I wash and iron them myself, so they don’t get ruined. The prison only lets us have 15 tops, nine bottoms and three pairs of shoes at once – so my mum brings in fresh clothes every six months and takes the last lot home with her.

Any plans for your release?
In Guernsey you only serve a third of your sentence if you behave, but I’ve already been caught with drugs inside. It’s hard to leave that way of life behind, as it’s so ingrained now. I’m quite enterprising, so I want to run a business. It’ll probably have to be a legit one, as I’ll be hot as fuck when I get out, and I won’t be free for long if I’m around drugs or anything dodgy.

Since being in jail this time, I’ve learned the hard way that women and prison really don’t mix. So I’d love to settle down, find a decent girl and live a chilled life, near the beach. But I’m not gonna stress about it. Whatever happens, happens.

*Interviews were conducted over encrypted message and names changed; the interviews have been lightly edited for clarity.

@rebecca_tidy