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Imprisonment for the Importation of Fentanyl

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Tuesday 09 April 2013

On Monday 8 April 2013 Constantin Marian Armega, a 37 year old professional boxer, and Cristian Razvan Bulfinsky, a 31 year old bar tender, both Romanian nationals, appeared before the Guernsey Royal Court following guilty pleas to the joint importation of Fentanyl, a Class A controlled drug. This importation had a potential local resale value of £12,000.

On 29 October 2012,officers of the Guernsey Border Agency stopped Armega upon his arrival from St Malo via Jersey. Armega stated he was travelling alone and did not have anything to declare. A subsequent search of his holdall found a wallet which when examined identified 39 Fentanyl patches concealed within it. Armega was then arrested on suspicion of being concerned in the importation of a controlled drug.

At the same time Armega was stopped, other officers stopped Bulfinsky who also stated he was travelling alone and did not have anything to declare. Armega was pointed out to Bulfinsky who said he did not know him but had paid for his ferry ticket. Following Armega's arrest Bulfinsky was also arrested on suspicion of being concerned in the importation of a controlled drug. A subsequent search of a stamp book belonging to Bulfinsky revealed a Fentanyl patch hidden under a large stamp.

In subsequent interviews Armega generally maintained a 'no comment' stance to all questions put to him although he did state that he wore Fentanyl patches when he fights. Bulfinsky also maintained a 'no comment' stance to all questions put to him although stated the stamp book contained his Fentanyl patch.

Subsequent forensic enquiries identified Bulfinsky's fingerprint on one of the Fentanyl patches found in Armega's wallet.

Armega and Bulfinsky were sentenced to 4 years 6 months imprisonment each and due to the seriousness of the offence and lack of ties with Guernsey the Court recommended deportation be considered by the Lieutenant Governor. In his summing up Judge Finch said that this case was the most serious involving Fentanyl to date. He stated that further importations involving Fentanyl are likely to result in stricter sentences.

Fentanyl is known to be a high risk drug when used as a drug of abuse. It has been connected to numerous fatalities nationally and is suspected to have also been a contributing factor to several fatalities locally.

Fentanyl and other potent pain relief medications are potentially highly addictive. Fentanyl patches are increasingly being used by substance misusers in Guernsey according to research from the Community Drug and Alcohol Team (CDAT). The active ingredient in Fentanyl is used in major surgery under anaesthetic and when used improperly carries a very high risk of overdose and death. The public are strongly advised against using any medications sold as fentanyl because of this risk. People who are using Fentanyl or other drugs and want help are advised to see their GP or self refer to Drug Concern on 729000.

Guernsey Police have dealt with a number of sudden deaths over the past five years which were linked to the illegal use of Fentanyl. These deaths highlight the significant risks that are associated with abusing controlled drugs such a Fentanyl without appropriate medical intervention and supervision. The drug when properly prescribed and used is safe and effective. Police are also aware of numerous incidents where individuals have used the drug illegally and have required urgent medical help in order to prevent life threatening side effects.

Geraldine O'Riordan, the Prescribing Advisor stated "Whilst Fentanyl remains a very useful drug for patients with severe pain and those receiving end of life care, it is important that it is used wisely. We have produced guidelines on its use, run workshops and arranged meetings for prescribers. We also prepare and circulate tables which show the number of prescriptions for Fentanyl each doctor issues. New formulations of Fentanyl such as nasal sprays and lollipops have caused problems elsewhere have not been approved for use locally. Our GPs have been actively reviewing their patients on Fentanyl. Some patients have been referred to the pain clinic or other specialist services and others switched to alternative treatments.

These efforts are now beginning to show very good results. Between January 2011 and January 2013 the number of prescriptions for Fentanyl dispensed fell by 20% and prescribing of the highest strength patch fell by 60%".

Law Enforcement are always grateful of any assistance given by members of the public in identifying any persons involved with smuggling or supplying controlled drugs in the Bailiwick; information can be given by contacting the Confidential Drugline on 0800 318 318.

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