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Son of drowned customs guard believes probe was set up to fail

Son of drowned customs guard believes probe was set up to fail

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The son of Othneil Whyte, the customs guard who drowned during a reportedly shootout between a local police officer and Venezuelans at sea in Union Island on June 3, believes that the court proceedings against the foreigners were “set up” to fail from the beginning.{{more}}

“This is a court case and you telling me Venezuela pressured the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines or convince them on an agreement,” Abdon Whyte said on Hot 97 FM “A.M. Mayhem” yesterday.

“If you had an agreement, that means you had a negotiation,” he further said on the show, hosted by Chris “Too Kool” Jones.

Director of Public Prosecution Colin Williams, speaking separately on the same programme yesterday, defended his decision to discontinue the cases, saying it was based on the law.

Whyte, who also speaks Spanish, read what he said were reports translated from a Venezuelan newspaper, which claim that the government in Kingstown agreed with Caracas that the men would be released.

He said his family, especially his mother, is trying to stay strong after the decision last Wednesday.

“Her blood pressure almost went up when she found out. We actually found out on Thursday … Right now the feeling that we have, for some reason, [is that] we can’t seem to find an end to this situation.

“We have this feeling like people like us can’t get no justice in this place. That is the biggest disappointment for us,” Whyte said.

The five men, who survived the incident in which three others were killed, were charged with attempting to murder and kidnap police officer Rohan de Shong.

The captain of the vessel, “El Amigo Fay” was also charged with failing to notify the Comptroller of Customs of the expected time of arrival of his vessel in St Vincent and the Grenadines on June 3, and failure to transmit the date to the Comptroller of Customs, in accordance with Section 18 C of the Customs Act.

“Apparently what he telling me now is that they actually notify Customs … With the other charge, what the DPP is saying is that they didn’t break that…” Whyte said in relation to the alleged Customs violations.

“This thing go further than that. I was privy to some information and thank God that I could speak, read and understand Spanish…” said Whyte, who studied in Mexico.

Whyte said he carried out his own investigations, which led him to Venezuelan news articles about the men’s release.

“… ‘Two days ago the government of Venezuela and St Vincent reached an agreement that made possible the return of the four fishermen who survived an alleged altercation with custom officials’,” Whyte said, quoting the article, which he said was posted on Thursday at 8:01 p.m.

Whyte said he is still hoping for a chance to speak with Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, who is also Minister of National Security.

He said that after his father’s death, he made an appointment to see Gonsalves, but was still waiting to see him, despite calls to his office.

“I thought he was working on our behalf. The mayor of Venezuela is praising their government and praising our Prime Minister for the release of these men. That is something I don’t understand,” Whyte added.

“From the time that the coke (cocaine) was turned into soap, they reported that. No gun was recovered…” Whyte said.

Whyte believes that the release of the men was negotiated on a “higher level” and the “message” or the “memo” was passed out to the DPP.

“The Prime Minster was at my house, he held my mother’s hand, he prayed with her, he spoke at my father’s funeral and he cried and he told us that we would receive justice and we will be taken care of. Four months has passed and we still waiting for this justice.”

Elson Crick, communications consultant in the Office of the Prime Minister, said on WE FM’s “Shake Up” yesterday that Gonsalves, who is in New York, had an extended telephone conversation with Whyte, after Whyte telephoned the Hot FM programme yesterday.

The Venezuelan Embassy in Kingstown, in a statement yesterday, said the release of the Venezuelans “is a sovereign act issued by the authorities of the Office of the DPP and the Serious Offences Court, based on the facts investigated and the content of the constitution and criminal laws of the state of St Vincent and the Grenadines”. (KW)

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