Marine police charged two men after seizing more than 400 kilograms of cocaine they found in a boat intercepted near Cooper Island last Saturday afternoon, police said Monday.
Pedro Samuel Sr., 58, of Diamond Estate, and Reno Alphonso, 27, of Fort Hill, were both charged with possession of a controlled drug
with intent to supply and failing to comply with a lawful order given by an officer, according to the Police Information Office.
The duo was scheduled to appear at the next available sitting of the Magistrates’ Court, the PIO noted in a press release. The incident began when Marine Branch officers on routine sea patrol ordered the captain of a “suspicious vessel” heading in the direction of
Cooper Island to stop, according to the press release. The captain initially attempted to evade police, but a second attempt to the stop vessel was successful, police said.
During an initial search, the officers found a “small quantity” of what is believed to be cocaine in the bow of the boat, according to the PIO. A subsequent search uncovered more than 400 kilograms of the drug, police said.
Acting Chief Inspector Dean Robin, the Marine Branch supervisor, praised his officers’ work.“These officers embrace the battle at sea with a passion and regularly stop and search suspicious vessels,” he said. “We are confident that with the eyes of our Marine Branch and help from other law enforcement agencies both locally and within the US, persons hoping to use these waters for drug trafficking will have a very difficult time.”
Over the past two years, several other major drug busts have also been recorded in the VI.
Last October, Stacy Smith, a government security guard, was charged with possession of a controlled drug with intent to supply after police said they seized a cocaine stash worth $19 million from his house.
The seizure occurred after police officers with the Special Investigations Team and Armed Response Unit executed a search warrant on Mr. Smith’s residence, police said.
During Mr. Smith’s first appearance in court, the prosecutor told the court that the drugs weighed 188.04 kilograms.
Last August, members of the United States Coast Guard seized about 1,700 kilograms of cocaine with a “wholesale value” of about $51 million off the coast of Anegada.
The seizure came during a joint operation between the USCG and Virgin Islands police officers on Aug. 27. Smugglers dropped at least 57 bales of co cocaine into the sea before fleeing the area, the USCG stated at the time. No arrests were reported following that bust.
Earlier last year, police said they seized 259 kilo grams of cocaine following an operation at Brandywine Bay on Jan. 19, 2021.
In connection with the seizure, police said they arrested police sergeant Troy St. Helen, Shaun Massicott and Devon Bedford and charged them with possession of a controlled drug with intent to supply and being concerned with the sup ply of a controlled drug. A fourth man, Delaino Johnney, was later arrested and charged with possession of a controlled drug with intent to supply, ac cording to police.
In November 2020, the biggest bust in VI history was recorded when police seized 2.3 tonnes of cocaine they said was valued at some $250 million from a property in Balsam Ghut.
The property belonged to police officer Darren Davis, according to police. He and his brother, Liston Davis, were charged in connection with the bust, as was another police officer, Emile Jimenez.
The month of the bust, USVI authorities arrested a Dominican Republic man named Ruben Reyes Barel, who they alleged was responsible for the VI stash as the ringleader of a drug smuggling organisation active here and in St. Thomas, Puerto Rico, and the DR.
They also alleged that one of the police officers charged in relation to the bust, Darren Davis, worked with Mr. Reyes Barel and provided protection for him.
The Balsam Ghut seizure, which officials said was worth almost 75 percent of the national budget, had cascading effects in the VI: Former Governor Gus Jaspert cited it as a reason for opening the Commission of Inquiry into potential corruption in the territory in early 2021.