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Lawyer wants release of vessel fined $10K

Magistrate's Court, John's Hole, Tortola

Magistrate’s Court, John’s Hole, Tortola

While hinting that further detention of a certain vessel may end up costing taxpayers, attorney-at-law Valerie Stephens-Gordon yesterday promised to write a letter to the Customs Department and the Attorney General Chambers seeking the release of the boat.

Stephens-Gordon appeared before the Magistrate’s Court yesterday to – among other things – verify if the vessel known as Tenacity from St Vincent and the Grenadines will be required in a gun case that is now before the said court.

In that gun case, local law enforcers allegedly found the prohibited weapon in the cargo section of the vessel on January 20 this year. Boat captain 66-year-old Lee Martin, along with 43-year-old Mitchell Warren, are charged in relation to the gun find. Both men live in St Vincent, although Martin is a native of Trinidad and Tobago.

According to senior prosecutor Leslie-Ann Faulkner, the vessel in question had been cited for several breaches under the Customs Ordinance.

She stated that, in one instance, the captain of the said vessel gave instructions for cargo to be offloaded from a truck onto Tenacity without the necessary permission. The truck involved is said to be linked to Lazarus Shipping.

The senior prosecutor further disclosed that a certain employee of Lazarus Shipping has not been cooperating with investigators.

Not needed as exhibit

Stephens-Gordon, in the meantime, told the court that the Virgin Islands Shipping Registry already had given permission for the vessel in question to be released.

She added that the Customs Department also said the vessel would be released if a fine of $10,000 is paid.

Stephens-Gordon however asked Magistrate Ayana Baptiste-DaBreo to have the prosecution state whether further detention of the vessel is necessary in relation to the gun case mentioned earlier.

In response, the magistrate said she is not in a position to direct the prosecution. But she noted that the prosecution should be mindful that further detention of the vessel may open up ‘other issues’.

“Which taxpayers can’t afford,” added Stephens-Gordon, who is representing the interest of the boat owner.

Subsequently, senior prosecutor Faulkner made it clear that the said vessel is no longer needed in the gun case. “We don’t need it as exhibit in the case,” she told the court.

Faulkner added that, in relation to the seizure of the vessel, it is the Attorney General Chambers that handles such matters on behalf of Customs Department.

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