Joint Court sentences two men for smuggling cocaine

PHILIPSBURG–The Joint Court of Justice sentenced two men on Thursday to five years in prison for the smuggling of 250 kilos of cocaine. The Solicitor-General had called to sentence Danny Omer Griffith Vicente (26) and Reyes Luis (51) to seven years, but the Appellate Court upheld the initial verdicts.

  The drugs were found by Coast Guard officials on board a vessel south of St. Eustatius on January 21. Three crew members were arrested and the contraband seized. The vessel with registration SX 4221-PC, which belonged to Griffith Vicente, was confiscated.

  The resident of Marigot, who is a fisherman by profession, said an elderly man had offered him US $10,000 for the trip. He denied any knowledge of the drugs, but told the Court of Appeals during the November 16 hearing that he knew he was doing something illegal. “I suspected it was something bad. I needed the money to buy a present for my daughter,” he stated.

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  Co-defendant Luis denied any knowledge of the 11 packages of cocaine, which were found on the ship’s bow under a yellow fishing net. He said he had been asked to come along for a recreational fishing trip. He said he had fallen ill and claimed he had been asleep when the Coast Guard intercepted the vessel and had no recollection of any drugs on board.

  Darwin J. Cedeño (31) was the only suspect who came clean about his role in the illegal transport. The unemployed father of seven from Venezuela had told the Court of First Instance that he was under the impression that he was assisting in an illegal money transport. He did not file for appeal.

  Attorney Jairo Bloem claimed that, according to him, the Coast Guard had no power in the international waters where Griffith Vicente was arrested. The Court of Appeals disagreed and said the Coast Guard had jurisdiction over the location, which was 15 sea-miles off St. Kitts, 14 miles off St. Eustatius and 45 miles off St. Maarten. Furthermore, the Coast Guard had lawfully taken the vessel to its homeport St. Maarten, the Court stated in the verdict.

Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/71685-joint-court-sentences-two-men-for-smuggling-cocaine

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