One of the 21 migrants smuggled into the territory on April 10 last year has identified accused Haitian smuggler Luc Eloi as the ‘interpreter’ and the ‘boat captain’s assistant’ during the near 12-hour-long journey to the BVI.
Dominican Republic native Camille Monegro gave the testimony during the Eloi’s trial in the Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday.
Monegro told the court that Eloi – who speaks English, Spanish, and French Creole – was instrumental in calming the passengers on the ‘tough’ journey; communicating to them in their native tongues and following the instructions of captain Carwill Potter.
Mongero said he lived in Anguilla and decided to head to St Thomas in the neighbouring USVI in search of ‘a better life’.
To do that, he sold his car to make the $2,500 needed to get him there. However, after paying the fee, he was taken from Anguilla and had to remain for months in St Maarten before embarking on what he thought was a journey bound for the US territory.
Finally, the day came to leave St Maarten and him along with the 20 other illegal immigrants boarded a blue 30-foot power boat with Eloi and Potter.
The journey started close to midnight and it was not until sometime after 11am the following day their feet hit dry land.
Eloi and Captain Potter dropped them off in Bitter End on Virgin Gorda and left together in the vessel.
Eloi was later stopped by police while walking barefoot in East End on Tortola wearing dark wet clothing and appearing ‘suspicious’.
After speaking to police officers, he led them to the boat moored in Chalwell’s marina where his belongings and that of the captain were found.
The captain, he said, had left in a vehicle earlier.
Eloi was then arrested for illegal entry and taken into custody.
An unrepresented Eloi told the court he was only a passenger trying to get to St Thomas, like the others.
He claimed he was merely being ‘helpful’ when he acted as an interpreter and assistant to Captain Potter during the illegal journey to the BVI. He made it clear that he was not being paid for his deeds.
He pleaded guilty to illegal entry but not guilty to possession of proceeds of criminal conduct and smuggling migrants.
His trial continues on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Eloi’s co-accused Potter has already pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 30 months in prison in May.
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