A nightclub boss jailed for letting drug dealers sell Ecstasy in his club was convicted on the evidence of a liar, the Court of Appeal has heard.
Dance Academy owner Manoucehr Bahmanzadeh is appealing against his conviction for allowing the sale of class A drugs in the Union Street club in a case referred to the appeal courts by the Criminal Cases Review Commission.
James Wood, QC for Bahmanzadeh, told the court that sacked head doorman Gareth Grimes had lied during the club owner’s trial.
He said new evidence had come to light which discredited Mr Grimes’ version of events, which saw his former boss jailed for nine years in July 2008.
Mr Wood said new evidence suggested Mr Grimes had offered to sell drugs to an off-duty police officer while he was working at the Bongogo’s club in 2004.
“Mr Grimes was advanced as a man of good character,” Mr Wood told appeal judges, Lord Justice Laws, Mr Justice Griffith Williams and Mr Justice Males.
He said: “The fresh evidence discovered by the Commission discloses that Mr Grimes, in effect, lied in his evidence and was potentially implicated in the large-scale supply of drugs.”
The doorman also lied on oath saying he was a former Royal Marine and had told officers he earned £5,000 a week selling drugs, according to appeal papers, Mr Wood told the court.
He said Mr Grimes had become the prosecution’s star witness, having been sacked by the 56-year-old Iranian after the club boss suspected him of ‘taxing’ dealers and concerns over his involvement with the man jailed for the brutal killing of 26-year-old Fernando Lopez in Stonehouse in 2004.
Mr Wood told the appeal judges that the evidence of Mr Grimes was hugely significant, as during Mr Bahmanzadeh’s trial, the club boss’s credibility was put up against that of Mr Grimes and found wanting.
The court heard how soon after Mr Grimes was sacked from the venue, police were given intelligence which suggested that the club’s management was involved in the supply of drugs inside the venue.
Plymouth police had learned how “Northern drug cartels” were targeting Plymouth in late 2004 after a void had been left when city gang The Central Element was brought down following a lengthy investigation, the court heard. As a result, an undercover sting – Operation Jonomac – saw officers purchase Ecstasy from dealers inside the Union Street club.
But Mr Wood told the appeal court that briefing records showed officers were specifically told to look for evidence connecting the club’s management to the supply and control of drugs.
Mr Wood said that at the same time as the police operation, Bahmanzadeh was regularly meeting with Plymouth licensing officer Fred Prout about improvements to the club’s security.
When Bahmanzadeh said he’d banned one suspected dealer – Blake Donnellan – he was praised by the officer for his actions, the court heard. Donnellan was this year given a lengthy sentence at Plymouth Crown Court for conspiracy to supply class A drugs, being described as an “area manager” for Manchester drug bosses.
Mr Wood added that new evidence also revealed Mr Grimes’ involvement in the killing of Mr Lopez over a drug debt.
He noted that during Bahmanzadeh’s court trial, Mr Grimes had said he left the club because Bahmanzadeh was angry he’d taken drugs off the club owners’ friends. But Bahmanzadeh insisted he’d fired Mr Grimes because he’d ‘taxed’ a dealer and was unhappy at Mr Grimes’s presence at the scene when Mr Lopez had his throat cut, the court heard.
Mr Woods said that during cross examination by Bahmanzadeh’s barrister, Mr Grimes denied the club owners’ version and said “It’s his word against mine”.
Mr Wood read out an undisclosed intelligence report from a Pc George about a doorman – Mr Grimes – at Bongogos in Plymouth who was offering class A drugs and boasted of earning “£5,000 a week” and driving around “in a flash car”.
Mr Wood said Mr Grimes’ evidence at the trial of Bahmanzadeh was “absolutely central” to the prosecution case and the new evidence “raises the spectre” that he was “very probably a drug dealer”.
The QC said the only other doorman who contradicted Bahmanzadeh’s stance on drugs was Frazer Clarke, who had also been fired by the club owner around the same time as Mr Grimes was sacked.
The court heard Mr Clarke was later convicted of supplying heroin and imprisoned in 2009.
The appeal continues.