We never had ganja on boat, says canoe captain

| 22/06/2021
Photo courtesy of @XRayOneCayman

(CNS): Marvin Brown, a Jamaican national and admitted captain of a suspected ganja canoe intercepted by the RCIPS and coastguard earlier this year, told a court Tuesday that he had no ganja on the boat when he and three other men were arrested after an ocean chase off the coast of East End.

Brown and his crew have all pleaded not guilty to charges of importation of 400lbs of ganja, as they claim the packages recovered by the police did not come from their boat and they were on a fishing trip. Brown was the first of the men to give evidence after the crown closed its case against them based on police video footage and police witnesses.

The crown contends that at around 9am on Wednesday, 3 March, Brown, Toney Williams, O’Neil Minnott and Ricardo Drysdale had just entered Cayman waters — the intended destination for their illegal cargo — aboard a Jamaican-style canoe when they were spotted by the RCIPS helicopter crew on border patrol.

As the police chopper approached the boat it changed course and increased its speed. The Cayman Islands Coast Guard was alerted and the RCIPS chopper crew watched as the men began throwing what appeared to be packages overboard from the canoe while they tried to speed away.

But the boat was intercepted and the men were arrested. The police retrieved the discarded packages with the help of the RCIPS helicopter that had plotted the locations. The police recovered four packages, which were later confirmed to contain around 400lbs of ganja and subsequently charged all four men.

But the men have all denied the charges.

During the trial the jury has seen the clear, high-quality video footage taken from the police helicopter in broad daylight showing the full interdiction. They have also heard detailed explanations from the officers on board the chopper, X-Ray One, as well as the coastguard vessel, Trident, about the interdiction minute by minute. Officers have explained how they had tracked the vessel in and then out of Cayman waters and exactly how they had plotted where the packages were dropped and then retrieved, using state-of-the-art technology.

But on the stand Brown claimed that the men were on a fishing trip and had left Jamaica on Monday, 1 March, intending to meet with a Honduran fishing vessel in order to swap lobsters for fish, which they would have brought back to Jamaica to sell and then share the proceeds.

Brown told the court that there “was never any ganja on the boat”. He said he had tried to escape from the coastguard because of the way they had approached. “I thought they were going to kill us” because of “how them boats come and with guns”, he told the court. But when the authorities stopped them, he said, “they found an empty vessel” because “we didn’t have any ganja”.

Brown said he had not seen anyone on the boat throw anything off, as he was driving, but that there were no drugs on board the boat to throw off. Telling his version of events, Brown said it was not until several hours after the men had been taken into custody by the Cayman police and had been tested for COVID-19 that they were told about the packages of drugs. Brown added, “We didn’t have no packages.”

Brown also said that there was no GPS on his boat so he did not know, and could not know, that he was in Cayman waters when they were stopped by the coastguard.

The case continues.

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