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Saturday, Aug 13, 2022

$30.9M Drug Bust Trial Commences Despite Representation Hurdle

$30.9M Drug Bust Trial Commences Despite Representation Hurdle

Magistrate Jack Husbands ruled that the $30.9 million drug bust matter involving the foursome – Nickel Simon and Cryton Browne and Venezuelans Wilferedo Lopez Vargas and Hober Morillo Ybarbia – proceed to trial, despite the start of the proceedings being marred with issues relating to legal representation.
The men were all jointly charged with Importation of a Controlled Drug and Possession of a Controlled Drug with Intent to Supply of $30.9 Million worth of cocaine into the territory on October 27, 2019.

Notably, the Venezuelan duo was also charged jointly with Illegal Entry.

The first trial was set to run from January 18 to the 20th before Senior Magistrate Tamia Richards.

That was pushed back to this week, from May 17 to the 21st, and the court’s docket was accordingly cleared to facilitate it because the charge of Possession of a Controlled Drug with Intent to Supply was pinned on the accused men in January.

Due to the magistrate being on sick leave and unable to conduct the trial, Magistrate Husbands was assigned the trial.

However, when the matter was called on Monday, May 17, Attorney Leroy Jones who represented the Venezuelans and amicus for defendant, local boat captain Nickel Simon, said there were some issues that he wished to inform the court of relating to legal representation for Simon.

He informed that Simon had retained the law firm, PST Law, and was represented by Patrick Thompson. He said Simon had paid PST Law the requisite funds for him to be legally represented during the proceedings. However, Thompson, is out of the jurisdiction, on an acting Judge appointment, and instead, Attorney Jason Hamilton of St. Kitts was recommended to take over the case.

When Hamilton contacted the Magistrate’s Court on the matter, Jones informed that he was told that even though he was fully vaccinated against the COVID-19, he had to quarantine for 14 days, contrary to the established policies.

He also informed the court that Hamilton’s attempt to comply with the 14-day quarantine rule was unsuccessful, as he could not get a flight to the BVI.

Jones then said, Simon is now left without legal representation in this matter.

His statements were supported by Simon’s address to the court, where he stated that the court replied to his Attorney on May 4, and the only flight he got was on May 7.

“I rather him there in person, and this 14-day quarantine aint making sense,” he said, adding that the BVI laws says one thing, and the court is saying something different.

In response, Crown Counsel Kael London said, PST Law still appears on the record, and an attorney from the law firm should have appeared before the court to explain the issue, as it was their “ethical, legal duty” to do so.

Meanwhile, Attorney Jason Hamilton was summoned via Zoom and told the court that “There seems to have been some miscommunication in this matter.”

He said that there were some things that need to happen in relation to his instructions in the case and said he would be better able to handle the case today, and only appeared on short notice “out of respect for the court.”

Magistrate Husbands stated that the court received correspondence from PST Law attorney Reynela Rawlins that PST Law wants to be removed from the court’s records in this matter.

He pointed that the emails were received at 9.18 am and 9.23 am when court started at 9 am.

He then ruled that Hamilton can appear via zoom, as the option was placed to him as late as last week as the trial cannot be put off any longer.

The trial then got underway, with the first US Coastguard officer Alexia Troise giving her evidence, as there was a high-speed chase that saw collaboration between the BVI and US authorities that led to the charges being filed.

The trial continues tomorrow.

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