Bail refused on ganja charge

The police helicopter captures the action as the crew of the Niven D closes in on the fishing vessel.

Bail was withheld on Friday for a West Bay man after Magistrate Grace Donalds heard details of an alleged conspiracy to import 509 pounds of ganja into the Cayman Islands.

Ricky William Manderson Sr., 59, was charged with conspiracy with others unknown, between Sept. 1, 2015 and Feb. 23, 2016, to import the illegal vegetable matter.

Crown counsel Scott Wainwright said police recovered the ganja on Tuesday night, Feb. 23. Officers estimated its street value to be in the region of a half-million Cayman Islands dollars.

He explained that the police helicopter and the marine unit Niven D were involved in an operation to stop a 25-foot fishing vessel around 9:45 p.m. off the coast of North Side. It had attracted officers’ attention because it had no lights and seemed to be evading authorities.

The vessel ran aground in the area of the Hutland Road junction, Mr. Wainwright said. There appeared to be three people aboard, all of whom fled into the bush. Around midnight, police found Manderson in the vicinity of Chisholms Drive. He was wet and wearing shorts, a T-shirt and no shoes.

Asked if he had any knowledge of the boat, he said within the hearing of two officers that he had captained the boat and was with two Jamaicans, “Fabian” and “Mac.”

Manderson was taken into custody and interviewed under caution. He made full admissions to importing ganja on a large scale, Mr. Wainwright told the court. Manderson said he went to Jamaica in September 2015, flew into Montego Bay and met Mac. They came to an agreement to import the ganja. Manderson was to receive 200 pounds of ganja, for which he thought his return would be around $50,000.

However, he then contradicted what officers reported hearing him say earlier. He was adamant that he was not physically on the boat – his only role was to receive the boat when it came ashore. He said he had spoken to Mac about a half-hour before the boat came to shore. When police asked him for his phone, he said he had lost it that night.

Mr. Wainwright objected to bail, pointing out that there were two men involved in the operation who were still at large and if Manderson had contact details, he could assist them. He also had previous convictions, albeit none for importing or possessing drugs with intent to supply. The Crown also feared that he would fail to surrender. Mr. Wainwright said Manderson was unemployed and had committed the offense for financial gain.

Defense attorney John Furniss said failure to surrender was not a risk because Manderson was not going anywhere off island until this matter was resolved. He suggested a curfew, reporting conditions and an electronic monitor. Manderson did not have any contact information about either of the other men. One of the people who ran from the boat had contacts in Cayman, he noted.

Manderson had not tried to run, the attorney pointed out.

The magistrate gave her decision to withhold bail, including in her reasons the fact that the investigation is continuing to locate the co-accused.

Mr. Furniss asked if he might make another bail application when the others are apprehended. He was told yes.

Manderson did not react to the bail refusal except to say, “They go back to Jamaica and I gotta be remanded.”

The matter was set for mention again on March 3.