Olivia Archbold File picture: Facebook

London - A former Britain’s Got Talent contestant once tipped as the ‘new Charlotte Church’ wept as she avoided jail for her role in a cannabis trafficking racket on the dark web.

Privately-educated Olivia Archbold, 23, was persuaded to get involved in the crime by boyfriend Alex Nash.

The couple bought drugs from the Netherlands and the US using the crypto-currency bitcoin, before sending it to their customers. They even injected cannabis oil into chocolate bars and lollipops before sending the narcotic sweets to buyers via Royal Mail.

Police believe the pair made up to £85,000 from the three-year operation – earning nearly £9 000 (around R170 000) a month at its height. They were arrested in June 2017 after officers intercepted two deliveries of herbal cannabis addressed to the couple’s plush apartment in Manchester city centre.

At the property, officers found cannabis worth £74 000 (R1.4 million), £3 430 (R65 000) in cash and cannabis plants growing in a bedroom.

Archbold claimed she only got involved as she loved Nash and was vulnerable. In one text message to him, she wrote: ‘Sometimes you have to do things in a relationship, you don’t want to do them, but because your love of the person you’ll do anything. I saw to your plants, I didn’t want to do it, but I love you.’

Manchester Crown Court heard that Nash, 24, who used several encrypted cyber identities to evade detection, was the mastermind but Archbold also played a ‘significant role.’ Mobile phone messages revealed she was aware of the operation’s scale and allowed £51 000 (R970 000) to be laundered through her NatWest and Santander bank accounts.

The singer, a former pupil at £6000-a-year Culcheth Hall School, made it to the semi-finals of the ITV1 talent show in 2010 aged just 14. At her audition, she was told her rendition of In The Arms Of Angels was ‘utterly spellbinding’.

Archbold, of Newton-le-Willows, Merseyside, was one of four sentenced on Friday – all of whom avoided going to jail. She admitted production of cannabis, being concerned in the supply of the drug and possessing criminal property and was sentenced to nine months jail, suspended for two years.

Nash, of Hale Barns, Cheshire, admitted the same offences, plus a charge of importing cannabis between March 2014 and June 2017. He was handed a two-year jail term, suspended for 24 months, and must complete 300 hours unpaid work. Nash’s friend Jordan May, 25, from Bredbury, Stockport, admitted the supply of cannabis and possessing criminal property. He received a nine-month sentence, suspended for two years. Nash’s brother Christian, 21, of Hale Barns, admitted taking cannabis deliveries as a student at Newcastle. He was handed an absolute discharge.

Daily Mail