Messages tie customs officer to drug ring

| 10/12/2018 | 0 Comments
Cayman News Service

David Lobo

(CNS): David Lobo (33), a customs officer from Bodden Town. appeared in the dock on Monday facing drug charges relating to a smuggling ring that originated in Colombia. The crown contends that Lobo was involved in at least two smuggling efforts in 2017 using drug mules, who travelled to Cayman as tourists via Panama and Cuba, bringing in uncut liquid cocaine, which the couriers had sealed in condoms and swallowed. Patrick Moran, the acting director of public prosecutions, told the jury that it was largely phone messages and documents that linked Lobo to what he said was a sophisticated conspiracy. 

Lobo and several others involved in the conspiracy were all arrested in June last year after several couriers and drug dealers, posing as tourists, arrived for at the least the second time in the Cayman Islands.

In his opening address to the jury on Monday afternoon, Moran said the police had raided a condo on Seven Mile Beach on 2 June, where they arrested four people and seized two kilos of cocaine that had been found in plastic containers in a bag.

Most of the drug had already been turned back into powder, but as the task force officers entered the apartment, they found the smugglers still working on the haul, as some of the liquid cocaine was on the cooker in the process of being reconstituted from liquid back into the powdered version of the drug. Related paraphernalia, such as digital weighing scales, the supplies used to re-cook the drug, travel documents and other evidence, was also seized.

Lobo was not at the apartment at the time but Moran said that he had been seen there earlier. He was tracked down later that night when his car was stopped in South Sound, and he was arrested after police found US$13,000 in cash and transfer receipts from Western Union that were later linked to the various characters involved in the smuggling ring.

The jury heard that the conspiracy originated in Colombia, with a long cast of characters. Moran said that one of them had Cayman ties and had been the contact for Lobo, who was alleged to have been the client for the drug hauls.

Large parts of the conspiracy to smuggle the drugs appears to have been documented in WhatsApp messages that investigators had tracked on phones seized during the probe, which tied the various players, the arrangements for how the drugs were smuggled, the costs and even pictures of travel documents and money transfer receipts that were messaged between the various conspirators.

As he outlined the crown’s case Moran told the jury that Lobo was connected to the drug conspiracy not just through phone communication but also through repeated meetings with the smugglers. He also allegedly provided the supplies that the drug mules needed to expel the condom-wrapped drug packets they had swallowed and those to cook the drug back to a powder.

Lobo, who remains on required leave from his customs job, has pleaded not guilty to the conspiracy charges. He has previously claimed that the connection he has to the alleged smugglers was in relation to another business importing artifacts from Colombia.

The case continues.

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