April 11, 2016 / 12:57 PM / a year ago

Celebrity British drug dealer and author 'Mr Nice' dies at 70

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LONDON (Reuters) - Former British drug smuggler Howard Marks who wrote about his exploits in an autobiography "Mr Nice" has died at the age of 70 after suffering from bowel cancer.

Marks, who learned of his condition last year, died in the early hours of Sunday at his home near Bridgend in Wales, according to a statement from his publisher Harvill Secker.

Marks turned to cannabis trafficking in the 1970s after graduating from Oxford University with a degree in physics.

After a series of multi-million pound deals and high-profile court cases, his career in drug smuggling finally came to an end in 1988 when he was caught after a raid on his house in Spain and extradited to the United States.

He was sentenced to 25 years in a high-security American prison but released on parole after seven years.

In 1996 Marks published his autobiography, which sold over a million copies and was followed later by a film of the same name in which he was played by his friend and fellow Welshman Rhys Ifans.

"Mr Nice was above all an adventure story," said his editor at Harvill Secker, Geoff Mulligan.

"Around the time of publication a close friend of Howard said to me: 'people are going to think he's made half of this up' but I know he left out half of it."

In later life, Marks campaigned for the legalization of cannabis and even stood for parliament in 1997 for the sole purpose of legalizing the drug.

A skilled raconteur, he toured a one-man show recounting his experiences on the wrong side of the law and in 2015 published a follow-up to his autobiography called "Mr Smiley: My Last Pill and Testament."

He said when he first learned of his cancer last year that he had no regrets about his life.

Reporting by Bethany Rielly; editing by Stephen Addison

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