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Dover man Ernestas Sidlauskas who smuggled class C drug khat through Folkestone terminal thought to be the first man jailed for the offence

By Paul Hooper

A Dover man has been jailed in what is believed to be one of the UK's first prosecutions for trafficking khat.

The leaf – which is chewed by many people in East Africa – was outlawed in Britain only three months ago.

In August, Lithuanian-born Ernestas Sidlauskas, 24, was stopped by Border Agency staff at Coquelles while travelling on a Eurolines bus to Folkestone.

Khat was recently classified as a class C drug
Khat was recently classified as a class C drug

Prosecutor Jim Harvey told Canterbury Crown Court that inside Sidlauskas' suitcase was 14.5 kilos of the leaf.

Now Sidlauskas, of Clarenden Place, Dover has been jailed after pleading guilty to importing the class C drug intending to sell it.

Although there have been prosecutions of khat-trafficking in the US, this is believed to be the first successful prosecution since the change of law in June.

The prosecutor said the leaf is chewed by people in East Africa and the Arabian peninsula, as a stimulant.

It was outlawed in the US 20 years ago, after fears it produced "violent delusional thinking and paranoia" in those chewing it.

The case was heard at Canterbury Crown Court
The case was heard at Canterbury Crown Court

The green-leaf shrub was made illegal in the UK under the Misuse of Drugs Act and became a class C controlled drug.

The Government produced a leaflet explaining: "Khat contains natural ingredients which are already controlled drugs both in the UK and internationally because they are harmful.

"To help protect local communities from the potential health and social harms associated with khat and to ensure that the UK does not become a hub for international khat smuggling, it will become illegal to produce, possess, supply and import or export khat without a Home Office licence."

Judge Adele Williams told Sidlauskas: "This is a controlled drug and you brought it into the UK for financial gain.

"Those who import controlled drugs into the UK can expect immediate custodial sentences."

She then jailed him for four months.


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