Cruise worker fined for drugs

A cook aboard the cruise ship Brilliance of the Seas spent five nights in custody in the Cayman Islands before being fined for possession of drugs at sea.

Eric Landeros Pegueros, 36, appeared before Magistrate Margaret Ramsay-Hale late last Thursday, when he pleaded guilty to possession of a .52 gram of cocaine and a .38 gram of ganja.

Crown Counsel Tanya Lobban told the court it was a fairly unusual case in that Pegueros was found with the drug aboard the ship just outside the landward limits of the territorial sea of the Cayman Islands.

The magistrate asked what country the ship was registered in. Ms Lobban said Bahamas.

In that case, the magistrate replied, the case would be outside her jurisdiction. A ship or aircraft registered to another country is the responsibility of that other country, she said.

Ms Lobban agreed but explained that Cayman’s Attorney General Sam Bulgin and the Governor, Mr. Stuart Jack, had assented to the local prosecution. The Misuse of Drugs Law and an international convention make provision for dealing with drug offences aboard a vessel at sea.

The Governor does not act unless the relevant country has requested Cayman’s assistance.

In this case, the ship’s officers turned Pegueros over to local authorities when they came into port on 24 March. Ms Lobban said officers had discovered the drugs the previous day.

Later she explained that the ship conducts random drug tests on crew members. Pergueros’ test was positive, which resulted in a search of his bunk where the drugs were found.

When the charges were put to him, he agreed he possessed the drugs and would have imported them into the Cayman Islands because he would have used them here.

The magistrate asked him his employment status now.

‘I’m not sure if I’m allowed back to work or not,’ he said. He agreed that using drugs was not worth the risk of losing his job.

The magistrate said she hoped the experience of coming to Cayman and being prosecuted would ensure he never did anything like this again. She did not think his children should pay the price because he risked losing the income that supported them.

She took into account the time he had spent in custody and fined him $500 for each drug plus the cost of testing, for a total of $1,150.

She said Customs officers would assist him in making arrangements to pay. The alternative was 90 days in custody.

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