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Bequia chef freed of cocaine charge

Bequia chef freed of cocaine charge
FROM LEFT: Attorney Grant Connell, with client Gabriel Hutchins outside the High Court building in Kingstown. Hutchins was freed of a 2015 cocaine charge last Thursday.

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A CHEF FROM BEQUIA who had a cocaine charge hanging over his head for the last five years, walked out of the High Court vindicated on Thursday.

“Thank God to be alive and free. It was a long and heavy road, but God is good and I am free now,” Gabriel Hutchins told SEARCHLIGHT outside the High Court on Thursday while in the company of his lawyer, Grant Connell.

Hutchins was jointly charged along with Junior “Southie” Gomez, a Trinidadian farmer that on November 8, 2015, they had in their possession 10,892 grams of cocaine, with intent to supply.

Both Gomez and Hutchins were also charged that on that same date, they had in their possession a controlled drug for the purpose of drug trafficking; importing a controlled drug for the purpose of drug trafficking; and conspiring with each other between November 1 and 7, 2015, to commit the offence of drug trafficking at Port Elizabeth, Bequia, on Friday, November 6, 2015.

The 10 kilos of cocaine was valued at EC$560,700 and was found in 12 five-gallon paint buckets that were among a consignment of 12 buckets of paint at the Customs warehouse in Bequia on November 6, 2015.

The jury returned a unanimous verdict on Thursday under the eyes of High Court judge, Justice Brian Cottle. The trial began Tuesday, May 18.

However, Gomez was not in court for any of the proceedings, and was found guilty on all charges by the nine member jury. He is said to have been given bail and absconded.

Connell, Hutchins’s lawyer, said the jury got the verdict right as far as his client is concerned.

“He always said he was innocent from day one, and I believed him, and we did the case.

“It really tore his life apart. This case clearly shows that the powers that be need to invest in the police service in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and getting them trained with basic investigation skills,” Connell commented.

He said it was unfortunate that his client’s life was turned upside down, even losing his job as a chef in Mustique, because of a shoddy investigation.

“In this case, you heard certain evidence where a fax was sent to Trinidad to ask certain questions and never got a reply, and they never heard from Trinidad again.

“If one, you sending a fax in this day and age, maybe they did not check to see if the fax machine in Trinidad had paper, or maybe they didn’t follow up with an e-mail or even check Interpol,” Connell said.

He added also that the investigators never checked to see if the paint came from the company that was marked on the buckets, and this in itself is a serious allegation.

“They didn’t check the company to see if it actually was from that company before they created a nexus between the contents and that company,” Connell added while noting that during the investigation his client answered 276 questions from the police, after which he was charged.

“Close to six years of torture, but it is a weight off his shoulders and he can carry on with his life,” Connell said noting that his client has already begun plying his craft once more.

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