Three Jamaican nationals were found guilty on Friday after trial for importing 555.95 pounds of ganja into the Cayman Islands on Jan. 25, 2018. The men had pleaded not guilty, saying they were fishermen who landed in Cayman Brac after drifting for three days because their engines failed during bad weather.
The defendants, all from Westmoreland, were Oshane Nickoy Ricketts, 30; Andre Washington Robinson, 34; and Nicholas Odell Maxam, 31.
Magistrate Valdis Foldats said he rejected their evidence, but emphasized that he did not rely on their lies as evidence of their guilt.
The three were set to be sentenced on Friday, March 1, along with Yoandy Swaby-Ebanks, 37, and Terry Wright, 40, both of whom pleaded guilty last year to their involvement in the offense.
The prosecution’s case, conducted by Crown counsel Darlene Oko, was that the three defendants and Mr. Wright had motored from Jamaica with the ganja, which they offloaded to another boat in the vicinity of Barkers, West Bay, around 4:30 a.m. At some point, Mr. Wright boarded the receiving boat, which was followed to shore by a police patrol boat and the air support unit. Mr. Wright and Mr. Swaby-Ebanks were arrested.
The delivery boat moved away from the transfer scene out into the open sea. The three defendants arrived in Cayman Brac the next day, where they were arrested for illegal landing. They denied having ganja aboard or coming to Grand Cayman. They said they had been fishing off Pedro Bank, which is on the southern coast of Jamaica, when they got in trouble and drifted.
But a marine officer, accepted by the court as an expert in search-and-rescue and drift patterns at sea, said it was not possible to have drifted from their purported location to the Brac.
Officers who observed the drug transfer candidly admitted that they were unable to identify the height, weight or gender of the people on the delivery boat, the magistrate said. But they did identify the characteristics of the boat, the number of people in it, the two operational engines and the round fuel drums aboard.
Jamaican canoes were not unknown in this area, but it was unlikely that there should be two such vessels in Cayman waters at the same time with both having three persons aboard, two engines and multiple round fuel drums, the magistrate indicated.
Phone records showed that Mr. Ricketts and a man with a Cayman phone link had phoned each other dozens of times between Jan. 23-25, with two calls moments before the ganja was transferred from one boat to the other. After that, there were no more calls.
Further, the name of the man with the Cayman phone link was on a piece of paper that Mr. Wright had. “It was clearly a tally sheet of individuals who were to receive some of the ganja,” the magistrate said.
Further, phone records showed no calls by Mr. Ricketts or Mr. Maxam, who also had a phone aboard, to any emergency services or any experienced seaman who might be able to give advice.
Mr. Robinson, in spite of being the captain, did not properly oversee the fueling of the containers. He said the trip to Pedro Bank would have consumed 60 to 75 gallons of fuel. But if the fuel drums were full at the start of the journey, 185 gallons would have been consumed, the magistrate pointed out.
He ordered the continued remand of the three defendants until their sentencing for importation of ganja and illegal landing.
Defense attorney John Furniss, who represented the men along with Jonathon Hughes, indicated they would give verbal notice of appeal at that time.