A man who was attached to the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force Marine Unit for six years said he was unaware that he had to declare funds exceeding $10,000 to Customs officials when travelling.
David Hodge of Road Town and Elvis Thomas of Sea Cows Bay are jointly charged with failing to declare monies to Customs and landing without leave from an Immigration Officer.
The duo allegedly committed the offence back in 2011 while coming from St Thomas in the neighbouring US Virgin Islands (USVI).
They reportedly entered at the Cleaning Hole near Fort Burt Marina on Tortola around minutes after 10 pm, and was allegedly caught with $225,000.
The two had also been charged with ‘unlawful importation of goods at a place other than a Customs port’. However, that matter is said to be dismissed.
‘I was unaware’
During their trial on Tuesday, prosecutors asked Hodge whether he had a background in law enforcement, to which he responded, “Your Honour, is this relevant?” He then affirmed that he was.
Hodge was then asked whether he had to familiarize himself with certain laws pertaining to his work as a marine officer. He told the court that he could not recall.
Hodge, however, told the court that part of his duties was to patrol the territory’s borders and deal with illegal immigrants.
He further said he did not agree with the prosecution’s suggestion that he knowingly came into the territory after all ports were closed because he wanted to conceal the near-quarter million sum he was carrying.
Hodge noted that the Cleaning Hole did not have an Immigration office but it fell under the jurisdiction of the Road Harbour, which is approximately half-a-mile away from Road Town.
He said he intended to drive there (to Road Town) to check-in that night, had he not been arrested.
I had options
Thomas, his co-accused, reminded the court in his testimony that he had the option of going home that night and had up to 10 hours to check-in with Immigration, being that he is a Belonger to the territory.
He told the court that although he has been deemed a disabled man for years now, he had planned to instruct a driver to transport him to Road Town to seek out an Immigration officer, as required by law.
Thomas said the circumstances of the night in question was a ‘one-of-a-kind occasion’ and, as a frequent traveller between the USVI and the BVI, he always entered at an official port of entry where he would be processed.
Senior Magistrate Tamia Richards is expected to enter a verdict in their matter on November 6.
Defence attorney Stephen Daniels is representing the accused men.
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