Dragons’ Den star and Reggae Reggae sauce entrepreneur Levi Roots reveals he was jailed after being ‘set up’ by police who ‘planted drugs and a gun on him in the time of the Yardie gangs’
- Levi Roots, 65, told how banks refused to lend to him as sauce was ‘too black’
Famed reggae musician and chef Levi Roots has claimed police ‘set him up’ as they tried to catch ‘Yardie gangsters’ when he was jailed in the 1980s in a brand new podcast which saw him tell how he escaped his ‘violent’ upbringing.
Mr Roots, 65, who shot to fame after appearing on Dragons’ Den in 2007 where he was awarded a £50,000 investment in his business, revealed that a police officer who arrested him later wrote a book confessing to the stitch-up.
Having come from humble beginnings with lengthy spells spent in prison, he is now a multi-millionaire with a biopic in the works who has sung happy birthday to Nelson Mandela.
The chef, whose real name is Keith Graham Valentine, discussed his family, his time in prison and the popularity of his Reggae Reggae sauce on the episode which was released on Monday.
He is currently at the Edinburgh Fringe festival, where his brand new musical Soundclash is on stage until the end of the month.
Levi Roots has claimed police ‘set him up’ as they tried to catch ‘Yardie gangsters’ when he was jailed in the 1980s for possession of drugs and a firearm
Speaking to The Starting Line host and author Rich Leigh, Mr Roots alleged that a police officer involved in his drug arrest in the 1980s wrote a book after his sauce became famous in which he admitted ‘planting’ the drugs and a gun.
He maintains his innocence, but said that after ending up in prison he ‘accepted’ his situation: “I accepted that this was where I was. And it wasn’t until many years later, after Dragons’ Den, when I got famous, that the police officer that arrested me wrote a book. And in the book it literally says how he set me up.
“It was the time of the Yardie gangs, in the 80s. According to his book, they were trying to root out Yardies, and they set me up.
‘I’m far from a Yardie! They set me up, basically. I never knew how or why until this book was written.
‘One of the greatest tragedies is that I was always trying to tell my mum this is not the son that she knew.”
Mr Roots had previously been sentenced to six months in Pentonville prison after assaulting a police officer at the age of 15.
Telling the podcast about his ‘violent’ upbringing, Mr Roots told how the kitchen became his safe haven amongst a difficult childhood.
Born in Jamaica, he lived there with his grandmother until the age of 12, never attending school because she could not afford to send him.
Levi Roots told The Starting Line podcast about his troubled upbringing and his time on Dragon’s Den
Speaking in the podcast’s promotion video, Mr Roots told how music has long inspired him
The entrepreneur is now a multi-millionaire who has appeared on TV shows such as Saturday Morning with James Martin
When his parents sent for him to join them in the UK, he arrived not being able to spell his own name, and soon fell into trouble as he tried to adapt to his new home.
This culminated in his spell in Pentonville, which he says happened after his father ‘refused to defend’ him in court following the incident.
He attempted to turn his life around and aged 26, Mr Roots was running a youth centre in London before he received a fresh blow – being sentenced to nine years in prison for possession of drugs and a firearm.
Describing how he coped during his time in HMP Wandsworth, he told how it was during this time that he met an officer who inspired him to leave a life of crime behind him for good.
‘A nine year sentence is like a kick up the backside,’ Mr Roots, who has always maintained his innocence, said.
‘I couldn’t understand how it happened or why, but I learned fast that you have to accept it.’
He added that officers ‘planted’ both the drugs and weapon on him, but at the time he was arrested he couldn’t understand how they had done it.
During his time inside, his mother brought him a guitar, which was the same guitar he would later use to compose his Reggae Reggae sauce song.
After leaving prison he began selling his now world-famous sauce on market stalls across the UK from 1991, while trying to break into the music industry.
But it wasn’t until he appeared on Dragon’s Den in 2007, where he sang to the shocked dragons about his product, that his business truly took off.
Offered £25,000 in return for 20 percent of the business by both Peter Jones and Richard Farleigh, he credits mentor Mr Jones in particular for his success.
Soon after the show Mr Jones helped Mr Roots secure an exclusive deal with Sainsbury’s to stock his sauce in 600 stores, helping him become a household name.
The entrepreneur has now met the likes of King Charles and Queen Camilla, as well as appearing on shows such as Countdown and Saturday Morning.
But perhaps his personal highlight was singing happy birthday to Nelson Mandela.
Mr Roots appeared on the first episode of The Starting Line, hosted by PR guru Rich Leigh, who was told in his childhood: ‘If you get a job, just try to keep it, and Rich – please don’t end up in prison as well.’
Future episodes will dig into the lives of other success stories including Olympic gold medalist James Cracknell and The Apprentice winner Marnie Swindells.
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