Three suspects from Tortola facing 50 months for cocaine smuggling | THE DAILY HERALD

PHILIPSBURG–Three suspects are facing fifty-month prison sentences as they are suspected of cocaine smuggling at sea. The suspects, however, claim they had “fished” fifteen large packages out of the ocean while they were having difficulties with their vessel’s engine, and said they had no knowledge of the content of these packages. The Court of First Instance will give its decision October 23.

  The Prosecutor did not buy the stories of suspects D.M.F. (32), E.S.G. (31) and R.A.S. (33), who all hail from Tortola in the British Virgin Islands.

  The three men tried to convince the Judge that they had run into difficulties due to high and rough seas, which had caused the ship’s engine to break down after which the vessel had run adrift. Under these circumstances the Prosecutor found it hard to believe that the men had hauled some 400 kilos of extra weight on board.

  According to defence lawyer Sjamira Roseburg, the haul presumably concerned 361.9 kilos of cocaine, but due to the fact that only five per cent of the white substance in the confiscated 361 packages was tested in a field test and by the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI), she said it could not be ascertained that all packages had actually contained cocaine. Part of the cargo could have consisted of powder, sugar or wheat, the lawyer said.

  Her clients were detected by the Royal Dutch Navy at 50 nautical miles from the Saba Bank, where St. Maarten does not have any jurisdiction, the lawyer claimed.

  The three suspects claimed that they had left Tortola to go fishing on a so-called “community boat”, which they had refurbished together with a number of people from their neighbourhood after Hurricane Irma.

  Every week, several groups of people made use of the unregistered vessel to go fishing in the vicinity of Tortola. They said they had never run into any difficulties as “everybody” knows each other in Tortola and they never had any intention to go fishing outside Tortola’s waters.

  According to Roseburg, her clients were no “drug barons” as they were unarmed, did not have large amounts of cash in their possession and had kept the drugs in plain sight of the Navy personnel on board Zr. Ms. Groningen.

  She said her clients’ story was “not unbelievable”. She said the three first offenders were now confronted with inhumane conditions inside the Pointe Blanche prison and surrounded by “hundreds” of cockroaches.

  She said her clients led normal lives in Tortola. S. is a married man with a six-year-old daughter. His wife is studying medicine and has nearly graduated.

  1. is a refugee from Venezuela, who is doing odd jobs to provide for himself. It is his ultimate goal to bring his wife and their almost-two-year-old son to Tortola in search of a better life, his lawyer said.

  Roseburg said that F. had a good life in Tortola. He held a job to take care of his two-year-old daughter and was an avid fisherman in his spare time.

Source: The Daily Herald