Billionaire at heart of St Kitts ‘drug bust’ for having £1million of legal cannabis – Express



Alki David in handcuffs in St Kitts (Image: NC)

Alki David, 50, one of Britain’s richest men with a fortune of £2.6billion, said he was strip searched, grilled by police then forced to sleep on a bench with a wife beater in a St Kitts jail. Mr David said of the moment the cell door locked on the Caribbean island: “Being in a cage was easy but I worried that my life could be about to change for ever.” But during his night behind bars he made friends with the “biggest gangster on the island” who brought him food and pillows. And behind the scenes, his family were flying in a team of lawyers, as well as a squad of former special forces Russian soldiers in case he needed help getting off the island.

The mogul, whose family fortune was made through bottling Coca-Cola, became embroiled in the extraordinary tale involving two billionaires, more than a million pounds of cannabis in a private jet and a Hollywood A-lister.

Mr David runs SwissX, a legal cannabis company that specialises in CBD plants. These have the health benefits of cannabis but do not contain psychoactive THC, the chemical which makes users “high”.

He had flown into St Kitts 10 days ago with fellow billionaire Chase Ergen and Hollywood actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Their plane was full of cannabis plants and seeds.

No one had told customs and Mr David, who maintains he has not broken the law, was arrested. He was released but held again as he tried to leave the island. He was then charged with importing a controlled substance.

Now back in Los Angeles, Mr David, who was ranked 58 in last week’s Rich List, says: “It has been quite a week. I guess I should really be dead.

“I guess when two billionaires and a movie star land on an island in a private jet with more than a million bucks worth of cannabis people sit up and take notice.”

He will have to return for trial on September 23 for offences including importing cannabis.


Alki David with former wife Jennifer Stano (Image: Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

“This is a great reflective time for me now,” he says. “In a foreign land I was thrown in a cell to sleep with some random local criminal, a horrible box, and not the kind of place I’ve ever had to spend a night. But I learnt lessons.

“Overall I’m proud how I got myself through everything. In my mind I could see the doors of the jail burst open, me walking out. I was calm from within. But when I was thrown back in that cell, I worried for the first time that my life could be about to change for ever.”

Mr David told how he had teamed up with old friend Chase Ergen, whose family run the biggest satellite TV network in America, to transport the plants.

The business would bring employment and money to the island, which he had “fallen in love with” he says.

The pair had already looked at sites on previous visits. They brought along Irish actor Mr Rhys Meyers, another friend, who has starred in films such as Bend It Like Beckham and Mission Impossible III, for the trip.

Mr David, who discussed the project with former St Kitts prime minister Denzil Douglas, says: “It all seemed perfectly planned.

“We were clear, we told the people there that we were bringing a huge amount of plants and seedlings to the island, we explained the plants had legal cannabidiol (CBD), which is legal.

“Tetrahydrocannabinol is the illegal element and the levels of that were too tiny in our stash to be relevant. We thought we had the green light from the people that mattered. The chaos that unfolded when we landed was a complete shock to us all.”

Video footage shows the three friends looking relaxed and exchanging jokes as Mr David’s private plane touched down on the tarmac of St Kitts’ Golden Rock Airport.

But, he says: “Drama erupted moments later. We were seized by police and before I knew it I was in handcuffs and in a state of shock.

“I started shouting and screaming but it made no difference. We were strip-searched and cavity searched.

“We shouted that we were guests here and had reassurances from Dr Douglas that we would be welcomed with open arms. They confiscated the jet and the contents.

“Eventually we were released from our handcuffs, they confiscated our passports and after eight hours we eventually escaped the airport.”

Mr David and Mr Ergen assumed the drama was over and on Thursday they were ready to return home. But Mr David was arrested again.

Mr David, who has homes in Los Angeles, Switzerland, Greece and London, says: “It was insane. I was thrown in a cell, my protests that I’d done nothing wrong were completely ignored.


Gut-toting guards at St Kitts’ jail (Image: Military Collection / Alamy Stock Photo)

“It was shocking. I’ve never been arrested in my life and here I was tossed behind bars like a common criminal.

“In the middle of the night the biggest gangster on the island turned up unannounced at my cell. This guy was about 7ft tall and a giant in every sense. He brought me pillows and food from his restaurant, it was an extraordinary move and the strangest thing to experience in the middle of the night in a dark cell. There was no bed, just a bench, and the other criminal in the cell was in for domestic violence. I tried to show the convict sharing my cell the light, I tried to mentor him, perhaps when he walked out the next morning he had another perspective.

“In the morning I had to pay $80,000 bail, hand my passport over and was told to report to Frigate Bay police station daily.

“I was in the eye of the storm and it was surreal, loved ones were making frantic calls.

“My sister sent a team of Russian Spetsnaz soldiers to extract me if necessary. A team of top lawyers arrived as well.”

Mr David was relaxed because he was assured that he was legally in the right but after a “farcical” appearance he ended up back in jail.


Hollywood star Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Image: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

He says: “The return to the cell was a wakeup call. I thought, ‘Wow, I’m in a foreign country and maybe the rules here are improvised’. Being back behind bars shook me up.”

Mr David handed over $600,000 bail in total and was told to return for trial on September 23.

“Tensions were high so at the last minute, just as dusk started to set in, I decided to race to the airport.

“I have no regrets about what has happened. The people of St Kitts are beautiful, warm and funny. I will be going back in a few weeks and my plans remain the same – to make St Kitts a leader in the global CBD revolution.

“Change is never easy but this work could transform the island.

“For me personally, since my return, I walk down the street now and people look at me differently… I’ve been forced to never take myself seriously again. What a gift. It makes the whole thing worthwhile.”

This article originally appeared here in

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