By Thomas Ward
When the doorbell rang at 3am in Pablo’s home in Kingston, he started having second thoughts about his future in the drugs trade.
It was the same long-haired, drug-addled student who had picked up a load of ketamine from his housemate George 40 minutes earlier. Pablo had heard him Hoover up a bump before he left the house and he had been back twice since, wide-eyed and jumpy, to ask for directions back to the party he’d just left.
Shaking his head, Pablo repeated the directions yet again and closed the door. Walking through the lounge, he passed a couple of dozing stoners crashing on the couches, up the stairs and past the bedrooms of his partners in crime. There was George, who sold ketamine and some MDMA, and Howard*, who sold cocaine. Walking into his room, he removed the fake bottom from his fireplace and began to count the day’s takings.
The money was good, but the shine was starting to come off the house of fun. It was very different when they had first started dabbling in the trade.
“We lived together from July 2007 to July 2009, and during that time a lot of drugs, and people, went through the house,” Pablo recalls.
“I had a friend on a couch in my room for about four months. It was great fun, and it was very messy, there were a lot of great parties. There’s definitely a lot of blurry moments in my mind from back then.”
Making a profit
Looking at Pablo now, it would be hard to pin him as a drug dealer – let alone one who made around £1m in drugs during the five years he was dealing, an estimated £800,000 profit-making in Kingston alone. But, as he puts it, “just because you’re doing something illegal, it doesn’t mean you can’t be nice about it,” he says, recalling a “surreal” costume party for his birthday. “We had partygoers sliding down the stairs front ways, almost braining themselves on the radiator. Anyone who made it got a free line of ketamine we’d laid out.
“I could go downstairs for a cup of tea at nine in the morning most days and quite probably find a group of people in fancy dress or wearing stupid hats asleep in the lounge, with two or three people still at it.”
Pablo’s connection was a former schoolmate who sold him weed, and went on to become a civil servant. He was also making thousands of pounds selling kilos of marijuana, MDMA and cocaine to trusted dealers like Pablo. When he was first contacted, Pablo saw it as nothing more than an opportunity to hook up with some friends, make some spare cash and have a few cheap nights out on the town. It soon spiralled out of control and Pablo was even able to get drugs on consignment.
“I would pick up every week in the summer that I could. People would buy loads more in the summer. I would normally get half a kilo of weed, for which you’d pay anywhere between £1,800 and £2,100, so it was a big investment. A bar of MDMA (9 ounces) would cost me around £2,250. Sold at £40 a gramme, you could make a profit of around £4,500 on the Mandy alone.”
As business and profit increased, so did the danger of exposure. Pablo’s phone was now ringing off the hook daily. He had to change his “business” phone regularly and his personal phone was also starting to get “ping-ed” despite his best efforts.
“Friends had told friends. Sometimes I would get paranoid around then. I’d smoke a joint, go to bed, and snap awake thinking that I’m lying with my head next to a minimum three-year jail sentence.”
The realities became even starker when Pablo’s civil servant asked him if he would take part in a high-paying drug run from Southampton to Central London. Pablo declined after his immediate family’s home addresses were demanded as collateral in case the drugs went missing.
The most terrifying moment came when Pablo was woken up in the early hours of the morning by his housemate, Alan, who told him that a large group of police were quietly gathering outside.
Pablo recalled his heart sinking as he saw the cars amassed on their road. Soon everyone in the house was hiding every incriminating thing they could, a tall order, given that it was the middle of the festival season.
“We put Dave in the bathroom, standing over the toilet with about 3,000 pills, an ounce of coke, liquid ketamine, God knows how much MDMA and a giant bag of weed,” Pablo recalls. “I remember looking at it all and thinking that when they came in we would never be able to get it all down the toilet in time.”
Trapped between a prison sentence and expensive debt to dangerous people, he and his housemates waited with baited breath as the police finally made their move – to a house three doors down.
“I just remember thinking ‘thank God’,” said Pablo. “Me, George and Howard had agreed that we’d each take the rap for whatever we sold the most of. There was so much in the bathroom that we’d each have gone to prison for years.”
Shortly after the heart-stopping run-in with the police, Pablo decided to gather up what money he had saved and go travelling. Since his return, he’s left the game alone – and would advise others to do the same.
“I had a lot of fun at times over those years, but after a while you kind of find yourself yearning for a normal life. You start to lose connection with some of your friends when the lines begin to blur between friend and dealer.
“There are probably quite a few broke students out there at the moment with the connections to start dealing who might be considering making some quick cash. My advice is, don’t do it. The potential costs far outweigh the potential benefits, and there are a lot of things out there much more important than quick cash.”