British tourist, 39, who vowed never to return to Colombia after he ‘snorted cocaine from the grave of Pablo Escobar as part of a bet’ four years ago is jailed alongside drug smuggling gang members for more than 50 years
- Steven Semmens, 39, was filmed snorting cocaine from Pablo Escobar’s grave
- The video from 2018 went viral and angered local cartel members in Colombia
- Semmens has now been jailed for 13 years for his international drug smuggling
- Semmens and his co-conspirators were given a total of 52 years and one month
A British tourist who vowed never to return to Colombia after he snorted cocaine from the gave of Pablo Escobar, infuriating local gangs, has been jailed.
Steven Semmens, 39, was filmed kneeling by and spilling the white powder on the grave stone of the notorious cartel boss, who was buried in Itagui, ‘for a laugh’ after drinking with his friends in 2018.
Semmens has now been jailed for 13 years and six months, alongside his co-conspirators, after he was found to be involved in an international drug smuggling ring, attempting to bring drugs into South Wales over the pandemic.
Steven Semmens, 39, (pictured) was filmed kneeling by and spilling the white powder on the grave stone of the notorious cartel boss, who was buried in Itagui, ‘for a laugh’ after drinking with his friends in 2018
The video angered gang members who had been part of Escobar’s cartel, causing Semmens to shave his head and go into hiding
In 2018 Semmens said he decided to snort the drug off Escobar’s grave as part of a drunken bet.
He said: ‘I was drinking with a friend and they said: “Do you want to go and see the grave?”
‘And then my friend said: “Sniff cocaine off it’ and bet me £200 I wouldn’t do it on Facebook Live.”
In the video Semmens is seen emptying a bag of white powder onto the gravestone and then rolling up a $5 note.
Semmens was filmed on a Facebook Live back in 2018 snorting cocaine off Escobar’s grave. The video caused him to shave his head and go into hiding before he was found by police
The video quickly went viral, causing him to shave his head in an effort to change his appearance before going into hiding before being found by local police and being kicked out of the country.
Semmens said the incident had made it ‘awkward’ for him to get a job, adding that he had been sent lots of death threats.
At the time he said: ‘I just thought it would be a laugh, I didn’t think it would go this far.
‘I was drunk at the time. I’ve been bombarded with threats that I’m going to get skinned alive.’
Speaking after the incident in 2018, Semmens said the incident had led to death threats and made it ‘awkward’ for him to get a job
Semmens has now been jailed alongside his co-conspirators for an international drug smuggling plot, that involved trafficking large quantities of cocaine into South Wales between April 2020 and August 2021.
Speaking during his trial, his lawyer said Semmens snorting cocaine off the grave had come to the attention of Escobar’s ‘criminal confederates’ and they were ‘not pleased’ about the footage.
The barrister described his client as ‘naïve’ and as a ‘fantasist’ inhabiting a Walter Mitty world of a ‘lifestyle he sometimes thinks he has’, before adding his client profited little from his involvement in the cocaine business.
Pablo Escobar (pictured) once controlled more than 80 per cent of cocaine shipped to the U.S
Following the video, Semmens, alongside his co-conspirators, was found guilty with the intent to supply cocaine between April 2020 and August 2021
At Swansea Crown Court on Thursday Semmens, alongside Andrew Botto, 34, Shane White, 34, and Ieuan Emlyn Williams, 37, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine throughout the pandemic.
The cocaine conspirators were sentenced to a total of more than 52 years in jail for peddling the Class A drug.
The court heard the men were often shipping the drug from areas where there was glut of supply to areas where the supply was more limited and demand and therefore profits were higher.
Swansea Plumber Andrew Botto, used a shipping container hidden behind camouflage netting and fencing just yards from one of city’s busiest roads as a base for his separate cocaine-dealing operation. Pictured: The shipping container hidden
The court heard White used the EncroChat secure communications network to run the operation while still working for the family glazing business and plotted with Semmens to import kilos of cocaine from South America to the UK.
His barrister told the court that not a single gram of the drug was actually brought into the country due to their lack of ability, which showed ‘something almost comical about their ineptitude’.
Swansea plumber Botto used a shipping container hidden behind camouflage netting and fencing just yards from one of city’s busiest roads as a base for his separate cocaine-dealing operation.
Swansea plumber Andrew Botto, used a shipping container hidden behind camouflage netting and fencing just yards from one of city’s busiest roads as a base for his separate cocaine-dealing operation
When police forced entry to the locked unit in May last year as part of Operation Wizard they found a 1kg block of high-purity cocaine in a coolbox along with disposable gloves, bags, and weighing scales.
Botto was arrested later the same day and was found to have more than £2,000 in cash in his trouser pockets.
Botto, who had a previous conviction from 2014 for possession of cocaine with intent to supply, also previously pleaded guilty to a separate conspiracy, committed with others unknown, to supply cocaine.
Ieuan Williams (pictured) was given six years in prison at Swansea Crown Court for his involvement in an international drugs ring
Andrew Taylor who was defending Semmens, said his client had led an ‘unusual and unfortunate’ life.
He said the drug dealer’s biological father had had little to do with his son and Semmens had lived in Spain with his stepfather where he became fluent in the Spanish language.
The barrister said the defendant ended up working as a nightclub ticket promoter in San Antonio in Ibiza where he met and formed a relationship with a Colombian woman and the couple subsequently moved to Colombia.
Andrew Evans, defending Botto, said his client was ‘a plumber from Penlan’ who had turned to his old business of supplying drugs when work was hard to come by during the bademic.
He said Botto had been operating as a one-man-band from his unit in Brynhyfryd and now realised he had ruined the lives of his partner and her daughter and wished he had not returned to his old ways as a way out of his financial difficulties.
The advocate said references written to the court on behalf of his client described him as a ‘fundamentally decent and honest person’.
Shane White (pictured), used the EncroChat secure communications network to run the operation while still working for the family glazing business
Nicholas Wells, for Williams, said his client had been involved as a courier working under the direction and instruction of others.
He said Williams had served with the Royal Welsh Regiment for seven years and had been deployed to Basra in Iraq in 2003 where he witnessed ‘horrific events’ including the bombing of a school bus.
The barrister said Williams was subsequently medically discharged and diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and in 2011 the Ministry of Defence accepted liability and gave him £60,000.
However he said a large part of the lump sum went on legal bills before the defendant bought and then due to his ‘reckless and impulsive behaviour’ ruined an expensive car and he quickly found himself with very little of the payout left.
Mr Wells said that while being held on remand in prison awaiting sentence the father-of-two had become a valued member of small group of veterans who were serving time.
As part of the same operation Richard Philip Ronald Gerrard, aged 42, (pictured) of Heysham Road, Heysham Lancashire, had previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine alongside Semmens
James Wing, for White, described his client as a middle man connecting dealers and suppliers and moving money.
He said the defendant had not been working for a Class A drug crime group and had been working in a ‘quasi-self-employed capacity’ for which he was paid on a commission basis and at the same time had still been working for the family’s glazing business.
The barrister described the conspiracy between his client an Semmens to import cocaine as ‘largely fantasy’ and said though the pair had discussed the plans and the large profits they hoped to make for some 15 months not a single gram of cocaine had ever actually been transported nor was it ever likely to be transported as they ‘did not have the money and did not have the wherewithal’, adding ‘there was something almost comical about their ineptitude’.
Mr Wing said since being held on remand in prison the defendant had realised the devastating effect cocaine had on people, families, and communities and realised it was not, as he had previously thought, just a ‘party’ drug or a drug you ‘take with friends in Spain’.
But the barrister said it was accepted White had made significantly more money from his second drugs business of importing cannabis from America and supplying it on to others – an enterprise for which he ‘kept the lion’s share of the profits’. He said White realised he had ruined his young son’s future and realised he would not be there for his son for a considerable period to come.
A kilogram of cocaine recovered from White’s mobile device, which was geo-located to one of his addresses
Judge Huw Rees said defendants had been involved in the commercial-scale trafficking and dealing of the cocaine.
He told them: ‘It goes without saying, but it seemingly needs to be said, sheer greed led you to profit from selling an insidious Class A drug without a thought or a care about the misery or danger being inflicted on others. To put it in short form – you were in it for the money and you must pay the consequences for your avarice’.
With discounts for their guilty pleas he sentenced Semmens to 13 and a half years in prison, White to 15 years and four months behind bars, Botto to nine years and seven months in jail, and Williams to six years in prison.
The defendants will serve up to half those periods in custody before being released on licence to serve the remainder in the community.
As part of the same operation Richard Philip Ronald Gerrard, aged 42, of Heysham Road, Heysham Lancashire, had previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine alongside Semmens, White, Botto, and Williams and he has already been sentenced to seven years and eight months in prison.
Luke Thomas, aged 21, of Heol Llan, North Cornelly, had previously been sentenced to six months in prison suspended for 12 months and ordered to do 180 hours of unpaid work after pleading guilty conspiracy to supply cannabis which White had imported.
Speaking after the sentencing detective inspector Russ Jenkins from South Wales Police’s force intelligence and organised crime unit said: ‘This was a complex and protracted investigation which resulted in the successful prosecution of a number of organised criminals.
‘The web of conspirators were spread far and wide, crossing national borders and continents. As a direct result of this investigation South Wales Police are still actively engaging with other UK police forces and the National Crime Agency, along with our international partners, to disrupt the activities of those who seek to flood the streets of south Wales and the wider UK with cocaine.
‘We are committed to tackling the most serious organised criminals who affect our communities. I would urge the public to contact us with any information they have. It may be the key piece of the jigsaw to assist us in prosecuting these serious and organised criminals.’
Who was Pablo Escobar, leader of the Medellin Cartel?
Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria was a Colombian drug trafficker.
During his time at the helm of the Medellin Cartel he controlled over 80 per cent of the cocaine shipped to the US.
This earned him the rank of one of Forbes Magazine’s ten wealthiest people in the world.
Escobar entered the cocaine trade in the early 1970s, collaborating with other criminals to form the Medellin Cartel.
Despite his role as a drug lord Escobar earned popularity by sponsoring charity projects and soccer clubs.
However terror campaigns run by Escobar resulted in the murder of thousands turned the public against him.
By the mid-1980s, Pablo Escobar had an estimated net worth of $30 billion and cash was so prevalent that Escobar purchased a Learjet for the sole purpose of flying his money.
More than 15 tons of cocaine were reportedly smuggled each day, netting the Cartel as much as $420 million a week.
Colombian law enforcement finally caught up to Pablo Escobar on December 2, 1993 in a middle-class neighborhood in Medellin.
A firefight ensued and, as Escobar tried to escape across a series of rooftops, he and his bodyguard were shot and killed.
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