2 El Socorro fishermen freed of drug trafficking charges

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

– File photo

TWO El Socorro fishermen were on Monday acquitted of charges related to a $15 million drug bust three miles off the coast of Chacachacare in 2006.

Anand Ramlogan and Michael Boodoo were before Justice Gail Gonzales and a jury at the Hall of Justice, Port of Spain, charged with cocaine and marijuana trafficking.

It was alleged that on December 7, 2006, the two were within the territorial waters of Trinidad and Tobago when they were held with the drugs by the Coast Guard.

Jurors deliberated for some 90 minutes before they returned a not-guilty verdict.

It was the prosecution’s case that the two were intercepted by the Coast Guard when their boat, “Shane 78,” collided with the Coast Guard vessel during a chase.

This left the boat partly submerged in the water when the coast guardsmen allegedly saw the drugs – 22 packages of marijuana weighing 501 kilos and three packages of cocaine weighing 28.7 kilos – in the water.

Testifying for the State was a retired Coast Guard officer, a customs officer and the police officer who charged the men.

It was alleged that one of the men admitted to getting the drugs from someone on Patos Island.

The men denied involvement in the alleged drug find. They maintained they were fishing. Their attorneys pointed to the inconsistencies in the prosecution’s evidence, in particular, the failure of the lawmen to take down contemporaneous notes to corroborate their version of the men’s arrest.

The men’s attorneys also pointed to the fact that the boat presented into evidence, which was kept at the Coast Guard’s base, did not have the markings “Shane 78,” although the State’s witnesses maintained this was because of weathering, which erased the vessel’s name.

After the jury returned the not guilty verdicts, the judge ordered the destruction of the drugs and ordered that Ramlogan’s boat be returned to him.

The men were represented by attorneys Orin Kerr, Henry Chase and Mario Merritt while Solange Devenish prosecuted the two men.

A Coast Guard officer was charged with stealing three blocks of the cocaine but he was cleared of the charges after a magistrate upheld a no-case submission in 2018.