Police arrested two Cayman Airways employees Thursday on suspicion of human smuggling.
The two arrested women, age 33 and 29, were released on bail Thursday evening, according to Royal Cayman Islands Police Service spokesperson Jacqueline Carpenter. Neither has been formally charged as of press time Sunday.
Sources say the two women were allegedly involved in charging Cuban nationals to help them reach the United States. Once on the ground in the U.S., Cubans are given preferential treatment under the “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy.
Ms. Carpenter, in a statement, wrote, “This investigation involves foreign nationals who were legitimately here in Cayman and whose departure was facilitated with the use of false identities. The investigation is complex and involves cooperation with other foreign and local partner agencies.”
Cayman Airways spokesperson Olivia Scott Ramirez, in a statement released Friday, said an internal investigation launched by the airline “resulted in CAL identifying and reporting to the relevant authorities, certain passenger movements which appeared to have been contrary to Immigration regulations.”
She continued: “Since that time, CAL has been fully cooperative and transparent with the relevant authorities as they conducted their investigations. These investigations have so far resulted in the arrest of two Cayman Airways employees on suspicion of activities contrary to immigration law and these employees have been removed from active duty while the investigations continue.”
She said the airline’s operations “had not [been] affected in any way by this investigation and CAL is unable to comment further at this time given that the investigations are still in progress.”
Officials with the Immigration Department participated in the investigation and the operation to arrest the women.
The police spokesperson said, “Cayman Airways has fully cooperated with the investigation.”
The 33-year-old woman is from West Bay and the 29-year-old is from George Town, according to Ms. Carpenter.
Chief immigration enforcement officer Gary Wong said, “We have been investigating [this case] for a while.”
He said human smuggling cases are “not something we deal with on a regular basis.”
Human smuggling is defined by the 2015 Immigration Law as facilitating or helping with “the transportation, harbouring or movement into or out of the Islands,” of someone without permission to be here. If convicted, a human smuggling charge can result in up to seven years in prison and a $50,000 fine.
“This is something we take very seriously,” Mr. Wong said, “and we work with our counterparts overseas to stop.”
The wet-foot, dry-foot policy means Cubans who reach U.S. territory automatically get a green card – permanent residency – after a year and a day.