‘I am no drug dealer’

A TRUCK driver accused of illegally transporting cannabis worth GBP630,000 through Cumbria told a jury: “I am not a drug dealer.” Valerijus Petrusevas, 41, protested his innocence as he was being questioned by prosecutor Tim Evans at Carlisle Crown Court about how 63kg of the class B drug came to be in his lorry’s trailer in October last year. Police found the drugs after the defendant’s Scania truck crashed on the A66 at Warcop and he “fled” the scene and then the country, the court heard.

The cannabis was found inside seven cardboard boxes and two Sports Direct holdalls, which had been loaded into the lorry’s trailer.  Giving his evidence, Petrusevas said he had been a lorry driver for 20 years and had owned his own small business. Because business was slow, he said, he had been looking for more work overseas.

“I could not find jobs in the UK so I looked for work in Europe,” he said. His barrister Andrew Pickin then asked the defendant about an occasion in October, 2020, when French Border officials discovered 62kg of cannabis in his lorry. He was not prosecuted.

Petrusevas said he had been asked to collect tractor parts from Madrid but knew nothing about the cannabis found in his lorry’s trailer in France near the Channel Tunnel. “When my trailer got checked, I found out [about the cannabis],” he said. “They found who was actually responsible.” The defendant was then asked about the evidence of a transport worker who had earlier told the jury that he saw Petrusevas helping another unidentified man to unload boxes from an unidentified silver van and then put them into the defendant’s lorry before he began his journey back to Ireland through Cumbria last year.

That witness told the court he saw this happen on at around 6.15pm on the day before the defendant’s lorry crashed on the A66. In response to Mr Pickin’s questions, Petrusevas said that after sleeping that day, he went to a nearby canteen for food and to use his phone. “I was there till about 7pm,” he told the court. Asked about why he left the crash scene, he replied: “I was injured; I was in shock; I was in panic; I was scared.

I was in such pain. I didn’t know what I was thinking. I was not functioning properly; couldn’t think straight.”

Mr Evans began his cross-examination by suggesting that Petrusevas was short of money. “You were short of money and you knew you could make money in drug dealing, didn’t you?” asked the barrister. Mr Evans then asked Petrusevas why he had gone to his father’s home in Northern Ireland and not his family home to his wife and children. “You were hiding from the police, weren’t you,” suggested Mr Evans. “I was recovering,” said Petrusevas.

The barrister asked about the drugs found a year before the crash in the defendant’s lorry in France. Referring to this, Mr Evans said: “You were hiding that from the police [after the crash] because you knew it was a very damaging thing. “You were not innocent in France; and you were not innocent in Cumbria, were you?”

Petrusevas replied: “I didn’t know about the drugs in France. It was the same.” Mr Evans then raised a text message which the prosecution said he sent, in which the message was: “Class B is good.” The defendant responded with: “My English is not that good when I write.

I didn’t mean it this way.” Mr Evans said: “Did you mean that transporting class B drugs was a risk worth taking for the money?” Petrusevas said: “It’s illegal; we’re talking about drug dealing. I was not involved.

I was in prison for six months and I don’t know what for.” Mr Evans said: “From the minute the crash occurred, you were determined to escape from the police, weren’t you? Because you knew you were a drug dealer.”

Petrusevas replied: “No. I have never dealt drugs.” Mr Evans said: “You didn’t go to your home in Northern Ireland because you were hiding from the police because you were a drug dealer.” Petrusevas said: “That’s not true.

I am not a drug dealer.”

The defendant, from Craigavon, Northern Ireland, denies possessing cannabis with intent to supply.  The trial continues. 

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