Convict’s Chopra debt claim kicked out of court

Michael Chopra
Michael Chopra

A MAN who claimed cash was to pay off a former Sunderland striker’s gambling debt has failed to clear his name over drug plot.

John Frederick Somerville always maintained that £50,000 he handed to another man while under police surveillance was to clear a gambling debt owed by former Black Cats and Newcastle United star Michael Chopra.

But, the 54-year-old, of Sherringham Avenue, Kenton, was found guilty of conspiracy to supply the class A drug and was jailed for 12 years at Newcastle Crown Court in January last year.

Somerville challenged his conviction at London’s Criminal Appeal Court, with his lawyers arguing it was ‘unsafe’ because the man who acted as ‘go-between’ for the cash was not tried for being part of the drugs plot.

But, his complaints were thrown out by three top judges, who said there was other evidence against Somerville, which formed an ‘overwhelming’ case and his appeal was ‘hopeless’.

The court heard police conducting surveillance saw the go-between, Ronald Moon, arrive at Somerville’s house in November 2010 before leaving a short while later.

Moon was stopped by officers on his way back towards Liverpool and was found to have £50,000.

He later admitted possessing criminal property and was jailed for 15 months in January, but a charge of conspiracy to supply cocaine was not pursued by prosecutors.

Officers later observed another man collect a bag from Somerville’s house, which was then taken to a house in Washington that was being used as a drugs factory.

A police raid of the house uncovered two blocks of cocaine, as well as cutting agents, electronic scales and a hydraulic press.

Officers had also seen Somerville throw a block of cocaine out of his car window in April 2010, when they were following him.

He denied any wrongdoing, claiming Moon was acting as a go-between to take money owed by Michael Chopra after he racked up a gambling debt.

However, he was disbelieved and found guilty by the jury.

His lawyers argued that, as Moon was not prosecuted for being in on the drugs plot, Somerville’s conviction was ‘unsafe’.

But, dismissing his appeal, Judge Peter Collier QC said the Crown’s decision in relation to Moon did not affect the safety of the jury’s verdict in Somerville’s case.

Sitting with Lord Justice Jackson and Mr Justice Nicol, he concluded: “The case against the appellant was overwhelming, the appeal is hopeless.”