Lowman’s Windward woman guilty of trafficking cocaine in juice boxes
A Lowman’s Windward resident found guilty of possessing and trafficking cocaine in juice boxes shipped from Trinidad, is the second woman to have been found guilty of committing this crime in January 2019.
Suranie Graham joins the ranks of Rose Hall resident Susan DeBique-Mason who was convicted at the Serious Offences Court in June, and was imprisoned for one year and five months.
DeBique-Mason was found at Kingstown Port with the controlled substance on January 11, 2019.
Graham, like DeBique-Mason, went through a full trial, but she, unlike DeBique-Mason, was represented by a defense lawyer: Grant Connell.
The prosecution provided evidence that on January 26, 2019, the Narcotics unit, led by Detective Sergeant 508 Irackie Huggins, and acting on information regarding the shipment, descended on the Kingstown Port.
After Graham cleared her packages at customs, which contained Busta, Coca Cola and Trinidad Fresh Box juices, she went outside to try and secure a cart man to transport her luggage. It so happened that she asked one of the detectives for change. At that point her luggage was searched, and the juice boxes cut open to find to find cocaine in transparent packages inside. Eight juice boxes are said to have contained a total of 1024g of the white powder.
Graham told the police that she normally imports juices from Trinidad, and when asked about the substance, she said that it’s like what she sees on television.
She was interviewed by the police but only kept repeating “no further questions”.
During the trial, Senior Prosecutor Adolphus Delplesche cross examined her extensively.
He asked her what she would have done if she got to go home with the substance. Graham replied that she didn’t know anything about it, but the prosecutor was not satisfied that she had answered the question. Put to her again, Graham responded, after a long pause, “I’m speechless.”
Also in the cross examination, the prosecutor inquired about her business selling drinks in Stubbs. She admitted that she does not conduct the business anymore since she got arrested for cocaine. Now she operates a business selling roti, but admitted that she made more money selling drinks. Delplesche asked her if shutting down the more profitable one “sound more sensible to you?”
He then asked her about the person who sent her the package, one called “Nigel Robley.” She said she never saw him in person, and he was a Facebook friend. She did not know his address in Trinidad.
“And this is your business partner?” the prosecutor asked her, and she replied that he was just a friend who wanted to help. She did not have a telephone number for him, and she claimed she knew him for two years before her started sending drinks to her.
“This Robley man really exist?” Deplesche asked her, trying to find out how they did transactions. Graham said that she did not pay him.
“Who used to pay him? Anybody?” he asked the defendant, who paused for a while before saying “He say he works.”
Lastly, he also asked about her boyfriend, Leslie Taylor, and she said that he does construction work in Trinidad, lives there and is Trinidadian.
Delplesche ultimately put it to the defendant that she knew exactly what she imported among the drinks was cocaine, but she denied it.
In the final battle of submissions both defense and prosecution debated on the point of whether she had knowledge of the drug according to the law on possession.
The defense argued that she was shipping packages as normal and could not have known there was cocaine inside. She hadn’t taken the juices out of the packages and examine them as the police had been able to, Connell said. In fact, customs had not detected anything suspicious either, he noted. The lawyer asked that they not only look at her demeanor in court but also on the day, which was not described as “suspicious”. She did not try to run, was not frightened by the police, and she did not try to distance herself from the drug. She cooperated with the police, Connell said.
He also mentioned that it was “interesting” that the investigation didn’t lead to Robley.
Connell also countered that any sensible person would halt their business after such an experience, and said that her speechlessness cannot mean that she was going to something.
After considering, Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne convicted Graham for the offences of possession and drug trafficking but dismissed a charge for conspiracy to traffick.
However, the magistrate did not impose immediate jail time as in the case of DeBique-Mason. A fine of $23,000 was handed down for possession, with $3000 to be paid forthwith, or a four month prison sentence would apply. The balance of $20,000 must be paid by November 6, or Graham will suffer one year in prison.
For trafficking, the defendant was sentenced to one year in prison, suspended for one year.