The trial of four men accused of importing $30.9 million worth of cocaine has been further delayed; this time because the lead attorney for three of the men was not granted entry into the territory.
Locals Nickel Simon and Cryton Browne along with Venezuelans Wilferedo Lopez Vargas and Hober Morillo Ybarbia all appeared before Magistrate Christilyn Benjamin on Monday, October 12 to commence trial.
However, a court adjournment was sought because senior legal counsel, Chesley Oneal Hamilton of St Kitts & Nevis was not approved by the relevant authorities to land in the territory.
Hamilton, along with defence attorney Leroy Jones, represent Browne, Vargas and Ybarbia.
Letter to Health and Immigration ministers
Seeking a later trial date, Jones told the court the October 12 to 14 trial dates was initially set back in July under the expectation that the territory would have reopened by October 1.
But after Premier Andrew Fahie announced the territory’s reopening date would be on December 1, Jones said a letter dated September 9, 2020, was written to the Minister of Health Carvin Malone. Both the Minister of Immigration Vincent Wheatley and Senior Crown Counsel O’Neal Simpson were copied on the document.
According to Jones, the letter was requesting permission to have Hamilton flown into the territory from St Kitts and Nevis on October 10 or 11, and outlined the intended purpose behind the request.
No response from Health and Immigration ministers, court hears
Jones told the court the letter outlined that Hamilton would arrive in the territory with all the necessary COVID-19 negative documentation from tests conducted prior to the trip.
But up till the court appearance on Monday, Jones said he was yet to receive any response from the email sent to Minister Malone.
He also said that after the Immigration Department had approved a temporary work permit for Hamilton in July, he was later informed that the process for the permit had been halted.
After making numerous trips to the department, Jones said he was told the reissuing of work permits may recommence within the new year.
Prosecutor, other defence attorney ready
Meanwhile, Reynela Rawlins — the attorney representing the fourth accused man, Simon — told the court that she was concerned about the request for yet another adjournment and wished the matter to proceed as she was fully prepared to commence trial.
Also wishing to have proceedings commenced was Crown Counsel Kael London who said he too was prepared to start trial.
After hearing the arguments from all parties, Magistrate Benjamin ruled that the three accused must be permitted fair representation since they had requested Hamilton to be their lead attorney.
She then set a date for the trial to commence from January 18 to 20.
This is the second reported delay into the trial for a drug bust that happened in October 2019.
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