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Two fisherman nabbed and charged in major drug bust

ST GEORGE’S, Grenada, July 31, CMC – Two fishermen—a Vincentian and a Grenadian—were remanded to prison on Monday following a drug bust involving almost EC$1.5 million worth of cannabis.

Cosmore Francis, 37, of Rose Bank, St. Vincent was charged with possession of 655 pounds of cannabis with an estimated street value of EC$1,485,540; while Kyron Alexander, 43, of Soubise, St. Andrew, Grenada, was charged with conspiracy to traffic a controlled drug.

They were also jointly charged with trafficking in a controlled drug.

A police statement said the two were nabbed during a recent drug bust.

When they appeared in the Grenville Magistrate’s Court on Monday, they were denied bail.

They will reappear in court on August 10.

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US Customs officers nab passenger with cocaine on flight from Trinidad and Tobago

US Customs officers nab passenger with cocaine on flight from Trinidad and Tobago

NEW YORK, Jul 27,   CMC –  The United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency says officers have arrested a woman who was found with cocaine her luggage when she arrived at the John F. Kennedy airport on a flight from Trinidad and Tobago earlier this week.

According to the CBP, on Monday, officers stopped Diamonaire Smith, a United States citizen and during the baggage inspection officers noticed that the sides of the suitcase felt “unusually thick.”

“The CBP officers, thereafter, probed the suitcase, which revealed a white powdery substance. The white powdery substance field-tested positive for cocaine.”

Smith was arrested for the importation of a controlled substance and was turned over to the US Homeland Security Investigations for investigation. 

The total weight of cocaine seized was about five pounds, with an estimated street value of US$85,000.

Smith now faces US federal narcotics smuggling charges and will be prosecuted by the US Attorney’s Office in the US Eastern District Court of New York. 

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Antigua and Barbuda cited By US State Department as model to combat human trafficking

WASHINGTON, July 26, CMC – Antigua and Barbuda is being cited by officials of the United States (US) State Department as an example to other countries to improve their machinery for combatting trafficking in persons.

This information was provided by Dr Kathleen Vogel and Shelly Westebbe of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons of the US State Department in a meeting with Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the United States, Sir Ronald Sanders.

The US officials congratulated Antigua and Barbuda for demonstrating the political will and establishing the machinery to stomp-out trafficking in persons, saying that their entire Office is very pleased with how much had been achieved.

In its 2018 report on Human Trafficking, the US State Department upgraded Antigua and Barbuda from the Tier 2 Watch List to Tier 2. There are four levels on the list with Tier 1 and Tier 2 being the best performers.

Responding to the State Department Officers, Ambassador Sanders said that it is a firm policy of the present Gaston Browne-led government to rid Antigua and Barbuda of any human trafficking whatsoever.

He also stated that “the Trafficking in Persons Committee in Antigua, backed up by the Attorney-General, had performed admirably to improve Antigua and Barbuda’s situation by coordinating the efforts of several government offices, including the police and immigration”.

Sir Ronald disclosed that the Attorney-General, Steadroy ‘Cutie’ Benjamin was already taking steps to ensure that when Antigua and Barbuda is assessed in 2019, it will move from Tier 2 to Tier 1.  In this regard, the US Officers provided nine recommendations for action with three of them being priorities.

The priorities are to: develop a national action plan for the period beyond 2018; establish standard operation procedures for all government agencies and NGOs on identifying victims and referring them for attention; and amend the anti-human trafficking law to make penalties for trafficking in persons commensurate with serious crimes such as rape and kidnapping.

Ambassador Sanders agreed to submit the priorities to the Attorney-General and to monitor implementation.

“Antigua and Barbuda knows that in many parts of the world, persons who are trafficked end up in conditions akin to slavery.  Everything in Antigua and Barbuda’s history cries out against slave conditions. The nation will not allow human trafficking,” he said.

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More marijuana fields discovered and destroyed

During a visit to the RAF Mounts Bay on Wednesday, July 25 the ship’s captain Peter Selby told the local press that the ship’s helicopter conducted its usual search reconnaissance flight around the volcano and over the mountains and hills of Montserrat that it uncovered new marijuana fields.

Deputy Commissioner of Police Charles

The next day Deputy Commissioner of Police Charles, Acting Commissioner informed that “with the assistance of members from the RAF Mounts Bay the police were able to uproot a field of one thousand one hundred (1,100) marijuana plants yesterday. They also were able to utilise our drone technology…”

 

Portrait of Captain Peter Selby RFA
Portrait of Captain Selby RFA, Taken aboard the bridge on RFA Mounts Bay

Thompson boasted, “of course its showing we’re utilising equipment that we would have gotten, and we want to say thanks to the Governor’s office, Captain and members of RAF Mounts Bay.”

 

The DCoP also offered “special thanks to the Minister of Communications and Works and his team who were able to assist us in acquiring the drone,” saying also, “I personally want to say thank you to my staff, the police officers who would have gone out and run the operation.

Over the past several years these fields have been sought out by helicopter from visiting UK RFA navy ships. Just less than a year ago RFA Mounts Bay visited between August 7-10 and carried out a similar find which found its way in the UK newspapers.

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CIP Unit confirms billionaire fugitive mehul Choksi has Antigua passport

CIP Unit confirms billionaire fugitive mehul Choksi has Antigua passport

Mehul Choksi

The Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU) has this afternoon confirmed to OBSERVER that, Mehul Choksi, an Indian billionaire businessman wanted for alleged fraud in India, was granted Antiguan and Barbudan citizenship in November 2017.

Several reports surfaced online this week, stating that the wanted man was in Antigua presently prompting this media house to reach out to the CIU.

In its response, the CIU stated that “after extensive vetting, Mehul Choksi was granted citizenship by registration in November 2017.” The statement added that his application was “subject to robust due diligence international investigation” and that “the 2017 investigation revealed no derogatory information.

“The CIU also confirmed that after being granted citizenship in November last year, Choksi swore the Oath of Allegiance in Antigua on January 15, 2018.

One widely circulating article on the Times of India online dated July 24, 2018 and headlined, ‘Mehul Choksi has moved to Antigua, taken local passport’ states that Indian law enforcement have been informed by official sources in Antigua and Barbuda that the wanted man arrived here this month but OBSERVER has not confirmed this.

Interpol is also reportedly involved in the investigation according to several online sources.

Mehul Choksi is a diamond tycoon who is wanted for a US $2.1 billion fraud scandal in India known as the Punjab National Bank Fraud Case.

Choksi is 59-years-old and is the owner of the Gitanjali Group, a retail jewellery company with 4,000 stores in India.

OBSERVER emailed the CIU, the government’s Chief of Staff, Lionel “Max” Hurst, the Office of Strategic Communications (STRATCOM) of the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda, and the Office of National Drug and Money Laundering Control Policy (ONDCP) this morning requesting statements in regard to the Choksi development but the only response so far has come from the CIU.

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Police warned before robbery at Sweetes-T's

Police warned before robbery at Sweetes-T’s

Antigua Observer – July 14, 2018 – Two men have been detained in connection with the robbery that occurred at Sweet-Ts on Tuesday July 10.

According to an officer involved in the investigation, a vehicle has been confiscated and is being examined for evidence at the Liberta Police Station.

The police source said Closed Circuit Security Cameras recorded the car parked on a “dead-end” road not far from the business place that is located on Falmouth main road.

And, the two robbers who ran from the establishment after the attack, went to that vehicle which left the scene shortly before the police arrived.

OBSERVER media has also been informed that the police at Dockyard Police Station got a call minutes before the robbery, informing them that it was about to happen.

The call came from individuals at the restaurant who saw the robbers with guns, lurking around. The men were clad in dark long sleeve shirts, long pants, full face masks, hoodies and gloves. This information was confirmed by police sources and staff at the restaurant which is known for its ice-creams and milkshakes.

A manager at Sweet-Ts who did not want to be named due to fear for her safety, said some customers left and the workers ran to safety within the restaurant even before robbers walked up to the entrance, jumped over the counter and grabbed a bag with documents and ripped out the cash register.

Six workers and a few customers were present at the time of the robbery but none of them had any interaction with the thieves.

During the robbery, the gunmen were waving their weapons in the air, but, according to the manager, they never spoke.

“It all happened within 10 to 15 seconds. The police were called a few minutes before that but unfortunately  the police did not get there while the men were inside,” the individual said yesterday.

And, apparently, no other police stations were informed of the pending robbery so there was no collaborative response.

The robbers escaped with only an undisclosed portion of the evening’s earnings as the workers grabbed whatever cash and documents they could and put them away before the attack.

Dockyard Police responded soon after the incident but by then the robbers were gone.

Since reporting this robbery, residents have come forward stating that there were several robberies in Swetes, Glanvilles and Bethesda in recent days.

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Case that never should be

Claude Gerald and Attorney-at-Law Warren Cassell

We concur ZJB’s lead reporting that “Agricultural Science teacher Claude Gerald is a free man”.

This is after a nine-member (mixed) jury of men and women, returned a not guilty verdict for indecent assault of a number of schoolgirls, at the Montserrat Secondary School (MSS) only this afternoon.

ZJB accurately reports: “The incident arose out of New Year’s greetings up to start of the school year on an open field around the midday on January 10 at the compound of the Montserrat Secondary School.

“Many students were said to be present at that time when the assault allegedly occurred and the teacher was arrested and charged after a three-week investigation.”

Gerald faced six counts, one each of six girls at the start of a two-week trial.

“Indecent assault carries a five-year jail sentence for each count Gerald’s defense team led by Attorney Warren Cassell was able to twiddle the charges down to four in a no case submission argument before the court on Tuesday.”

The no-case submission was an expected one and based on a ruling issued by Justice Morley who presided on the case, and who refused the press (especially Bennette Roach) from witnessing the trial when the evidence began, he ruled, “and so there is no case to answer as pleaded on counts 2 and 6. Accordingly, the trial shall proceed on counts 1, 3, 4, and 5, and the jury shall be directed to return a verdict of not guilty on counts 2 and 6 as pleaded…”

It was no surprise as ZJB reported: “after the acquittal defense attorney Warren Cassell says the not guilty verdict was expected.”.

Cassell said: “I am not at all surprised by the verdict and – there were six counts of indecent assault. Indecent assault is specifically defined in Montserrat’s law as ‘an assault accompanied by words or circumstances of indecency’.

“All of the accusers agreed that Mr. Gerald said nothing to them when he hugged them, therefore there were no words. And I said to the jury look where are the circumstances of indecency? This thing took place in the open, on the field of the of the M.S.S. campus. Where are the circumstances of indecency? No such thing existed. It cannot be that just by virtue of hugging, just by hugging a child and even kissing the child on the cheek. That is not indecent assault, or else fathers and brothers siblings would be guilty of it every single day – it happens every single day. Is it wise for a teacher to do it to a student, maybe not, but it doesn’t make it an indecent assault.

Attorney Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Oris Sullivan meanwhile, did not address the charges. But, while accepting the jury’s decision commended the witnesses and victims for courage to come forward and testify.

“Our system as I said on numerous occasions provides for trial by a jury of one peers. We accept the verdict of the jury of course, but we are still commending the witnesses and the victims for coming forward. This should not be a deterrent to other victims and other persons who are aggrieved who have been assaulted or sexually molested. We want to still encourage everybody who have been the victim of offences to come forward. It is the jury’s decision but that is not to say that every case will result in the same decision. We have seen our Jury at work and we’ve seen our jury convicted on prior occasions high profile cases, but today the prosecution was unsuccessful, but we still respect the Jury’s decision.”

TMR will present a more comprehensive report in a future issue, as there is much to reveal about the investigation, trial, its origin and the matters of child abuse and molestation, protocols and prosecution.

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Holness signs CARICOM agreements

Holness signs CARICOM agreements

MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica, Jul. 7, CMC – Chairman of the Caribbean Community(CARICOM), Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness, on Friday signed three agreements pertaining to matters of the regional body.

The signing took place during the 39th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM that ended here on Friday.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness and CARICOM
Secretary General Irwin LaRocque

One agreement relates to the CARICOM Arrest Warrant Treaty, which seeks to establish a system of arrest and surrender of requested persons within the Community for the purposes of conducting a criminal prosecution for an applicable offence; or executing a custodial sentence where the requested persons have fled from justice after being sentenced for an applicable offence.

Another pertains to the Revised Agreement for the Establishment of the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC).

This seeks to update the CXC’s legal structure in light of subsequent organisational practices, recent market developments and current needs, with particular emphasis on accommodating requests from additional territories and institutions to join or otherwise participate in the CXC.

The other document is the Protocol amending the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas to incorporate the Council for National Security and Law Enforcement as an organ of the community and the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security as an institution of the community.

The Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas establishing CARICOM, including the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), was signed in 2001.

Among the objectives, are improved standard of living and work in member countries; accelerated, coordinated and sustained economic development; and organisation for increased production and productivity.

The Conference of Heads of Government, which consists of the Heads of Government of the Member States, is the supreme organ of the CARICOM and determines and provides its policy direction.

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Loans Available For Marijuana Production In The Caribbean

St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): June  25, 2018 – With Canada recently legalizing marijuana for recreational use and a number of Caribbean countries contemplating taking that step, Invest Caribbean Now, a global private sector investment agency of the Caribbean, has announced it plans to make millions of dollars available to the region for marijuana production.

According to the investment company, it will help facilitate loans from US 1 Million up to $50 Million.

The loans, however, cater to funding the growing of marijuana for medical purposes.

Invest Caribbean Now says “As Caribbean nations continue to focus on legalizing medical marijuana in the region, financing for loans to grow and funding for commercial buildings has become a top priority. To cater to this need, Invest Caribbean Now, the global private sector investment agency of the Caribbean is now offering the option of loans on land deals and commercial real estate properties to qualified medical marijuana entrepreneurs in countries where the herb is legal.”

The loans would come from ICN’s private funding network and will be determined on a case by case basis, based largely on 55 percent of the appraised value of the collateral and the strength of the borrower. 

Invest Caribbean Now says whether the borrower is looking to fund a grow operation or a dispensary, there are lending and financing options now available to Caribbean nationals as well.

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CCJ strikes down mandatory death penalty in Barbados

CCJ strikes down mandatory death penalty in Barbados

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Jun. 27, CMC – The Trinidad and Tobago based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has ruled that the mandatory death penalty in Barbados is unconstitutional.

The CCJ, which is the highest court for Barbados, made the ruling based on two unrelated death penalty cases from Barbados.

The cases, Jabari Sensimania Nervais v The Queen and Dwayne Omar Severin v The Queen, were consolidated because both appeals challenged the murder convictions of each of the men and the constitutionality of the mandatory death sentence for murder in Barbados.

The Court stated that a section of the Offences Against the Person Act was unconstitutional because it provided for a mandatory sentence of death.

In addition, both men had their appeals against their convictions dismissed.

Before examining the issues raised by the appeal, the regional court considered the state of the mandatory death penalty in Barbados for murder and found that it was indisputable that the nation, through its actions, had acknowledged that it had an obligation to remove such mandatory sentence under section 2 of the Offences against the Person Act.

The court also noted that Barbados had also given undertakings to the CCJ and the Inter American Court of Human Rights to rectify the mandatory sentence which was reflected in the Barbados Privy Council’s consistent commutation of the mandatory death penalty.

The CCJ held that section 11 of the Constitution, which gives the right to protection of the law, was enforceable.

The CCJ also found that the mandatory death penalty breached that right as it deprived a court of the opportunity to exercise the quintessential judicial function of tailoring the punishment to fit the crime.

The CCJ ordered that the appellants be expeditiously brought before the Supreme Court for resentencing.

As it relates to the cases  – Nervais was convicted of the murder of Jason Barton and the mandatory sentence of death by hanging was imposed on him.

It’s reported that Barton was selling from a booth when an alarm was raised that caused him, and the people gathered around, to run away. Gunshots were fired by a group of men and  . Barton was struck by a bullet and died.

Nervais was  later arrested and charged with Barton’s murder after he made oral statements and a written confession to a police officer.

The Court of Appeal in Barbados dismissed his appeal against conviction and affirmed his sentence.

In the other case,   Severin was convicted before a judge and jury for the murder of  Virgil Barton in the parish of St. Phillip.

The prosecution relied heavily on the evidence of  Barton’s nephew,  who testified that he saw two men shoot at the deceased.

During investigations,  the police conducted a search of   Severin’s residence and found a Taurus semi-automatic gun along with thirty-one 9mm rounds in his bedroom.

In his appeal to the CCJ,   Severin challenged the reliability of  his nephew’s evidence, the fairness of the informal identification parade, and the instructions given by the judge to the jury at the trial.

The appeals were heard together on January 25 by the Bench of the CCJ comprising the  CCJ President Sir Dennis Byron.

These are the last judgments that the Byron will deliver as CCJ President as he will demit office on July 4.

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