Magistrate Nova Hall sentenced Jamaican national Harold Quest to four years imprisonment after finding him guilty of possessing 192.42 pounds of ganja with intent to supply.
The magistrate rejected his account of coming to Cayman by boat in order to get to the US via Belize and Mexico. She found that Quest had been the navigator of a vessel spotted not far from shore in South Sound on the morning of 29 September, 2008.
Officials brought it to shore and discovered packages of ganja aboard. They also found several large fuel containers, brown shoes, a knapsack and an atlas.
Around 6.30 am that same Monday, Quest was seen in the South Sound area and his clothes were wet. A police officer questioned him and Quest said he had been jogging. He explained he was staying with a friend named Derek. However, he could not show officers where Derek lived.
He subsequently admitted that the shoes, knapsack and atlas found on the boat were his. He said he had arrived in Cayman on the previous Friday night after leaving St. Ann’s with three other men. The others did not stay here. He was picked up by Derek, whom he had contacted by cell phone.
Quest said he was supposed to leave for Belize on Sunday night and he went to the vessel about midnight. He gave his shoes and knapsack to someone and got on board. He did not see any ganja on the boat. About five minutes later the boat got stuck on the reef. He tried to help push it off, but it was swinging back and forth.
Finally he swam to shore and waited for Derek to pick him up. He said he contacted Derek by cell phone, but then said he tried to contact him. He did not know what happened to the other men on board.
The magistrate noted Quest had the right to say nothing, but chose to give evidence. She pointed to numerous inconsistencies in his evidence that made his account not credible.
She asked how Quest could not know the area in which his friend lived. He had said it was 15 to 20 minutes away from where he was found. Both immigration and police officers tried to assist in finding the friend, but were unsuccessful.
She accepted the officer’s evidence that when Quest was seen, his clothes were not just wet, but extremely wet.
She also queried Quest’s account of retrieving his cell phone from the deck of the boat undamaged, while packages of ganja were found shaken loose.
The magistrate found it interesting that Quest had an atlas and concluded it was because he was the person in charge of navigating the boat.
She found he was aware of the ganja and his testimony had been designed to distance himself from it.
She rejected his account of two other men being on the boat and never being seen again. If there were others, the ganja would be in everyone’s joint possession, she pointed out.
Defence Attorney Ben Tonner asked the magistrate to bear in mind that Quest, 42, will be serving his sentence in a foreign prison without the support of family and friends.
In sentencing for possession with intent to supply, she said if she were imposing a sentence for importation it would be the same. There was no separate penalty for illegal landing.
A police press release issued last 29 September referred to the vessel as a 30-foot canoe with two engines.