Four drug seizures, mostly of cocaine, resulted in five arrests at Grand Cayman’s Owen Roberts International Airport over the long Easter holiday weekend, Cayman Islands Customs Department officials confirmed Tuesday.
In three of the cases, substances suspected to be cocaine were seized and in the fourth case, a small amount of ganja was taken by customs officers, Deputy Customs Collector Marlon Bodden said.
Speaking to the newspaper last week, Mr. Bodden, a former police superintendent, had said the Customs Department appeared to be “weak” in its intervention efforts at Cayman’s airports and ports, making just 12 drugs seizures at local airports in a five-year period.
Having made five arrests in four separate seizures between Thursday, April 17 and Monday, April 21 at Owen Roberts airport alone, it appears Mr. Bodden was correct in his assessment.
“The focus will be to snuff out and deal with any folks who are dealing with contraband,” Mr. Bodden said Tuesday. “There will be a certain degree of inconvenience to the public as a result.” Mr. Bodden was asked if the sheer volume of drug seizures over the past weekend was evidence that significant contraband had slipped through Cayman’s various ports in the past.
“That’s a fair question, but going forward, we can’t cry over spilt milk,” he said. “Seeing this [weekend’s activity], it probably could have been going on before.”
On Thursday evening, two cocaine seizures were made at Owen Roberts, leading to the arrest of one female and two males, Mr. Bodden said. In one case, a substance suspected to be cocaine was discovered to be hidden among some electronic items. In the other, a substance suspected to be cocaine had been packed into the bottom of the suspects’ shoes. The men had apparently installed additions similar to a lift or platform in their shoes where the contraband had been hidden.
In another incident from Thursday, a passenger from Jamaica was arrested carrying a small quantity of what appeared to be ganja.
Mr. Bodden could not state precisely how much of the suspected cocaine had been seized in the Thursday night operations, but he described it as a “large amount” and said customs officials were awaiting weighing and measurement of the precise amounts before releasing any details. The men arrested in Thursday’s seizures were believed to be Colombian.
In yet another drug seizure at Owen Roberts on Monday, Mr. Bodden said a 24-year-old female was intercepted carrying hammocks that had been laced with a substance suspected to be cocaine.
The woman, carrying a Cayman Islands passport, was also arrested by customs officers, Mr. Bodden said. According to the U.S. Justice Department, a number of cases where cocaine disguised as a dark solid known as “black cocaine” had been hidden in hammocks and many other items. The black cocaine is often a cocaine base mixed with hydrochlorides that must be treated chemically to separate the cocaine from the other substances once it arrives at its destination.
Mr. Bodden did not wish to disclose operational details regarding how the suspected illicit substances were detected on Thursday and Monday.
U.S. Coast Guard officials confirmed to the Caymanian Compass on Tuesday that in the prior year, 53,200 kilograms of cocaine were seized in the western, central and eastern Caribbean shipping routes monitored by the guard’s patrol craft. The amount has a potential “street value” of nearly $2 billion.
Mr. Bodden said it was entirely possible that some contraband being shipped to the Cayman Islands was not for local sale or use, but rather for purposes of transshipment to the far more lucrative North American markets.