PHILIPSBURG–The Solicitor-General called for a prison sentence of 36 months against a 37-year-old defendant for the possession of 10 kilos of cocaine, during this week’s sitting of the Court of Appeals.
Ten plastic packages with one kilo of cocaine in each bag were found in a box in a car parked in the yard of suspect Kendell E.J. Edwards’ home on June 21, 2018.
Edwards was sentenced to 30 months by the Court of First Instance on September 19, 2018. One day later, he filed for appeal because he claimed to be innocent.
Edwards said the car belonged to his cousin and said the car was used by a man named “Joseph” who had also rented his house via Airbnb. However, Edwards failed to provide investigators with any verifiable information about this person and only gave them a telephone number, which proved incorrect.
He also claimed Joseph had never contacted him about what had happened with the cocaine, which was confiscated by the police. The drugs have an estimated street value in Europe of approximately 500,000 euros.
The drugs were found during a house search, as Edwards was suspected of money-laundering because there was a big discrepancy between his income and his pattern of expenditures, the Solicitor-General said.
The “Fusion” investigation into the import and export of cocaine via Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) was launched in May 2017. Edwards, who worked as a baggage handler at PJIA prior to his arrest, was one of the suspects in this investigation.
“Veiled language and dubious pictures of spaces for luggage” were indications that the suspects in the investigation were busy setting up a new route for the smuggling of drugs between St. Maarten and the United States, the Solicitor-General stated.
However, Hurricane Irma threw a monkey-wrench into the works. The Fusion investigation was downscaled, as the police were confronted with other priorities, and a planned police raid was called off. The defendant was not caught in the act and was held for money-laundering, the Solicitor-General explained.
The Solicitor-General said the suspect was guilty as charged, as it was highly unlikely that the owner of the drugs would have left the drugs in the car unattended and would not have enquired about where the drugs had gone.
According to the prosecution, Edwards was involved with drugs for a long time. The 10 kilos of cocaine were intended for export, the Solicitor-General stated.
Attorney-at-law Shaira Bommel pleaded for her client’s acquittal. She claimed that the search of the car was illegal because the investigation, which was based on information from the Criminal Intelligence Service CID and the Kingdom Detective Cooperation Team RST, was aimed at money-laundering and not at drug crimes or the possession of illegal firearms. Therefore, the evidence obtained during the search should be declared illegitimate, the lawyer said.
Bommel said her client had been “astonished” when he was confronted with the charges. “I did not know what was going on,” Edwards told the Court of Appeals.
The Court will give its opinion April 5.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/86087-three-years-demanded-for-10-kilos-of-cocaine