Third CAL employee arrested in human smuggling case

A third Cayman Airways employee was arrested Monday in connection with what Cayman Islands authorities allege was a human smuggling operation that ran between Grand Cayman and the United States.

According to a statement from the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service issued late Monday: “Police arrested a woman, age 30, from George Town, on suspicion of human smuggling. The woman is now in police custody.

“The woman is an employee of Cayman Airways and this arrest is in connection with the arrests of two other Cayman Airways’ personnel.”

RCIPS officers arrested two of the airlines’ employees Friday on suspicion of human smuggling. Neither woman has been charged and both were released on bail, according to police.

The scheme, as it has been described to the Cayman Compass by a number of sources, involved the suspects accepting payment in exchange for helping Cuban nationals reach the U.S. The Cubans involved were in Cayman legally, either as visitors or on work permits, sources said.

Once they arrived in the U.S., as per long-standing U.S. immigration policy, they were given preferential treatment under the so-called “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy. 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.

“This investigation involves foreign nationals who were legitimately here in Cayman and whose departure was facilitated with the use of false identities,” an RCIPS statement released Friday said.

Assistant Chief Immigration Officer Garfield “Gary” Wong said human smuggling cases are not something his department deals 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.

Cayman Airways, in a statement released Friday following the arrest of the two employees, 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.”

The statement 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.”

According to the airline, its 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.”

CAL did not immediately comment on the arrest of its third employee.