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Three drug accused to know fate next Monday

Three drug accused to know fate next Monday

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June 2nd is “D-day” for the three Vincentian men who are wanted in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) on cocaine importation charges.{{more}}

Very strong police presence was again on show last Monday, as Dexter Chance, also known as Dexter Michael of Layou, Gareth Mc Dowall of Calliaqua and Carlos Sutherland of Lowmans Windward appeared at the Serious Offences Court.

The prosecution, led by the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Colin Williams, wrapped up its case and the defense team of Kay Bacchus-Browne, Grant Connell and St Lucian Alberton Richelieu made their submissions.

The key witness of the day was Detective Chief Inspector of the Special Investigations Unit of the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force, Thomas Murray.

Murray testified that he visited St Vincent and the Grenadines February 2008 to continue investigations into the boat that is alleged to have brought the 61.21 kilograms of cocaine into Tortola between January 17th and 24th 2008.

Five persons had already been arrested in connection with that find, including Vincentian Chesley Balkaran.

Murray testified that he received passport index form print outs of McDowall and Sutherland and a plain print of a photograph of Chance from Sergeant Junior Simmons.

According to Murray, on his return to the BVI, the passport index forms were sanitized, so that only the photograph remained.

The photographs of the three men were shown to Balkaran, who identified all of them.

Those photographs were the centre of much dispute, as the defense argued that procedural fairness was not followed.

Bacchus-Browne argued that even though Sergeant Simmons in his testimony the week before claimed that the passport index forms were marked, it was later found that they were not.

She said that no nexus was established for the records to show the relationship between original documents given to Murray and the sanitized photographs that Murray showed to Balkaran.

Chief Magistrate Young agreed despite arguments from DPP Williams that the hearing was part administrative and partly juridical and was not a criminal hearing.

She challenged him to show her the chain which proves that the photographs that Murray brought as exhibits, came from what was given to him by Simmons in St Vincent.

Another point of contention was a statement that the police said that Sutherland gave voluntarily, laying out what happened in relation to the cocaine being placed on the boat in question here, bound for the BVI.

Bacchus-Browne however argued that her client was threatened with being sent to Tortola to face 10 to 15 years imprisonment if he did not cooperate.

According to her, he was also denied the presence of a lawyer when he asked for one and was not read his rights.

The defense, in making a no-case submission argued that the government of Tortola has failed to make a case in keeping with the London Scheme for Extradition in the Commonwealth.

DPP Williams however argued that the local law (The Fugitive Offenders Act) is what should be followed.

The three men, who were remanded until Monday, May 18th, left the court to loud cheers by the scores of supporters who had lined the streets to show their support.

As he was escorted into the police transport, Chance waved to the crowd and flashed a broad smile.

Whether that smile will turn to sorrow or get even broader is now solely in the hands of Chief Magistrate Sonya Young. (KJ)

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