(Photo Credit: The Daily Herald)
Three men who claimed to have found approximately 15 large packages containing cocaine at sea will be sentenced in St. Maarten on October 23, for charges relating to smuggling.
The men were described as residents of Tortola. Their names were not revealed in the media; instead, the initials and ages were used to identify the men. They are said to be D.M.F. (32), E.S.G. (31) and R.A.S. (33).
The St. Maarten Herald newspaper reported that they are facing up to 50 months imprisonment for the offense.
According to the media report, the men claimed that they left Tortola on a fishing trip using a boat that was described as a “community boat”. They said that the boat was a community boat because a number of people from their neighbourhood refurbished it after Hurricane Irma.
The court heard, “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.”
It was noted that the men were detected by the Royal Dutch Navy.
During the trial, it was stated that the three men in their defense claimed that their vessel encountered engine problems and during their drift, they found and took onboard what Prosecution described as packages weighing approximately 400 kilos.
Defense lawyer, Sjamira Roseburg explained that her clients took what was presumed to be 361.9 kilos of cocaine. She said that 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 is quoted saying, due to the fact that only five percent of the white substance in the confiscated packages was tested.
Further, the lawyer claimed that the men were nabbed at 50 nautical miles from the Saba Bank, where St. Maarten does not have any jurisdiction.
Roseburg further stated that the three men “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.”