Not guilty verdict in cocaine conspiracy trial

Following a brief trial by judge alone, Canute Sebastian Nairne was found not guilty Friday of conspiracy to import cocaine.

Nairne had been accused of conspiring with Alexander Adrian Ebanks and others between Aug. 6 and Sept. 28, 2015, to import one kilo of cocaine into the Cayman Islands.

Ebanks pleaded guilty last month to a variety of drug-related charges, including conspiracy to supply; he received a sentence of six and a half years. One of his concurrent sentences was four years for conspiracy to import cocaine. The maximum sentence for conspiracy is 10 years. There was no proof that the importation ever occurred.

In delivering the verdict, Justice Michael Mettyear said, “Do I think he was probably involved in illegal drug activity? Yes. Am I sure that he was part of the specific conspiracy alleged in the indictment? No.”

He noted that the defendant had no previous convictions, did not give evidence and did not challenge any of the Crown’s evidence during the trial. That evidence was in the form of text messages between Nairne and Ebanks.

Crown counsel Eleanor Fargin had called two expert witnesses, one of whom was a U.S. federal agent who described certain words and phrases in the text messages as being well-known in the drug trade. The agent told the court, for example, that “T-shirt” was very common slang for cocaine.

Defense attorney Guy Dilliway-Parry argued that the texts may have shown an interest in the drug trade, but fell well short of proving any involvement.

For example, a text sent by Ebanks to Nairne mentioned a package wrapped in bicycle tube material. The defendant replied, “Yeah, that’s how they do it ….”

In another exchange, the two men sent messages concerning other people finding drugs that had washed ashore and they bemoaned the fact that they never had such luck.

Justice Mettyear referred to a photograph of a rectangular object said to contain cocaine. At first, it seemed compelling evidence because Ebanks had sent the photo to Nairne. However, it was then learned that Ebanks also sent the picture to another person who was not part of the conspiracy.

Justice Mettyear said the mere fact that Nairne was discussing something did not mean he was part of it, and the charge was dismissed.

A number of people have been charged with conspiring with Alexander Ebanks to supply controlled drugs on various dates in 2015. Two of these defendants are scheduled to appear in Grand Court on Wednesday, Sept. 28.