Novice smugglers admit carrying 450lbs ganja

| 02/09/2019 | 19 Comments
Cayman News Service
RCIPS Joint Marine Unit

(CNS): Four Jamaican nationals, who have been on remand for almost one year after being charged with smuggling ganja, appeared in court for a sentencing hearing Friday, when the judge heard that none of them were experienced seamen. As the facts behind the smuggling charges were outlined for the judge, it emerged that they had all been lured into carrying the drug haul after believing they were getting work on a fishing boat.

Martin Anthony Trench, Basil Anthony Smith, Andre Junior Russell and Kendale Jerome Straumann were all charged after the RCIPS Joint Marine Unit and helicopter intercepted the canoe they were on last September 27 miles southeast of Grand Cayman.

Prosecuting counsel Kenneth Ferguson said the boat had tried to speed off when it was spotted by police officers, who saw the men throwing large packages off the boat into the sea as they tried to get away. However, they were successfully stopped and arrested, and the police recovered over 454lbs of ganja from the boat and the water.

Ferguson said that during their interviews with police, the men were “completely mute and did not say a word”. However, after they had all come clean and pleaded guilty their story emerged through social enquiry reports.

Each of the men had a similar story about being recruited for work on board a fishing boat, but all of them admitted that when they arrived at the port the boat was already loaded and they realised pretty quickly what the cargo was. Having been offered $5,000 for the work and fearing they would not be able to refuse, they all opted to press ahead with the smuggling operation.

The men claimed they were destined for Honduras, where they were supposed to liaise with another vessel offshore. But the men, all of whom said they did not know each other until they came on board, said that none of them were experienced sailors that knew how to navigate and had no idea where they were going. They said that when they saw the police helicopter, they panicked and began throwing the ganja overboard and tried to get away.

The court heard that the case has dragged on as a result of a number of different issues relating to the crown’s case and issues with defence attorneys, which is why, despite pleading to the crime within a matter of weeks, they have still not been sentenced.

All of the men were represented at the sentence hearing by Rupert Wheeler, who described the dire financial circumstances all of the men were in when they opted to get in the boat and transport the drugs. Most were either unemployed or in casual work, several had significant debts as a result of family medical bills, one was in debt after being in a car crash and another was the sole bread winner for his own direct and extended family.

Wheeler said they were all motivated to do the smuggling because of money, but not, as had been implied by the crown, as a result of greed but dire circumstances.

However, Justice Marva McDonald Bishop said that poverty cannot be an excuse for crime and if it were “most of Jamaica would be criminals… or everywhere else in the world for that matter”. She sympathized with their plight but pointed out that many people who have nothing don’t resort to crime to meet their needs.

The judge is expected to deliver her sentence verdict next month.

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Comments (19)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I’m confused by the judge’s train of thought. It’s true that lots of poor people don’t become criminals but the men all stated that they were tricked into taking the work which none of them were obviously qualified to do. As sole bread winners if they had managed to maintain themselves up until that point I tend to believe that they thought it was legitimate work and could not get out of doing it. The sad part is poor people never get a fair shake. If they were rich, they’d have been out from last year.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Legalize the Vegetable like all other Vegetables.

    • Anonymous says:

      Legalize magic mushrooms too!

      • Anonymous says:

        I became suicidal in college because I was on the brink of falling below my GPA requirement. Tried the magic mushrooms once when my roommate found some and got a new appreciation for life and nature. Haven’t thought about the bad choice of ending my life since!

        • Anonymous says:

          Just here drinking my coffee and eating my fast food, thinking it’s not drugs when reality it is. Put the criminal out of business and put the money back into local community.

      • Night traveler says:

        Agreed, 100%. They are legal to possess in other Caribbean islands, even BVI. They are completely legal in Jamaica. Why not here?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Deport them now one thing we don’t need on this island is more Jamaican criminals. Immigration do your job please for once.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Instead of paying to house them at northward we just as well do what we do with the rest of the criminals and thieves, give them a work permit and release them.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Time to get serious with these drug smugglers. give them 20 years each and the drugs will stop coming.

    • Anonymous says:

      You seriously think we will stop their attempts when a disposable crew is paid $5000 for one trip when minimum wage over there is $200/month??

      If Caymanians could grow their own medicine here legally with sun and soil instead of paying big pharma or drug lords to import it, their incentive would be no more.

    • L.D. says:

      There would be no smugglers if there were not customers.

      • Anonymous says:

        If we made tobacco illegal tomorrow do you think all the government workers who enjoy their smoke breaks in designated areas would suddenly quit or would they try growing it themselves?

    • Anonymous says:

      Nonsense, basic economics need to be applied, smugglers continue to take risk because there is a market for importation, simple. The government has the opportunity to mitigate this but as usual opt to stick it head in the sand hoping the problem will go away. Reality check, too many individuals have lost the ability to be productive member of society vis-a-vie lacking to modernize the current marijuana legislation. Its time to fix this once and for all, decriminalization should be discussed election

  6. Anonymous says:

    Why let these people hang around for a year and make friends with our criminals. Deportation now. It surely is a mystery how when and why anyone gets deported around here. Is there any rhyme or reason to it?

    • Anonymous says:

      If catch and release is the only penalty for smuggling drugs then the police would never get any rest.

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