From the Courts
September 9, 2016
Bequia cocaine case gets going after long delay

A case in which a Vincentian and a Trinidadian are accused of having collaborated to smuggle cocaine into Bequia in 12 five-gallon buckets of paint commenced on Wednesday.{{more}}

Junior “Southie” Gomez, a Trinidadian farmer in his late 20s and Gabrielle “Goofy” Hutchins, a chef from Bequia in his early 40s, were charged on November 8, 2015 with possession of 10,892 grams of cocaine, with intent to supply.

So far, four out of 11 witnesses have testified at the Serious Offences Court, despite efforts made on Monday by lawyers of the accused to have the charges dropped.

Several taped packages were exhibited during the trial, which police say contained the drugs that had allegedly been hidden inside the buckets.

When a witness, referred to as Mr Tannis, took the stand, he said that Hutchins had contacted him a few days before the incident and told him he would be reimbursed if he pays to clear and store the buckets of paint for him.

Tannis, the owner of a grocery store, said he has known Hutchins for over 30 years, as they are cousins, so he agreed that “Southie” would collect the buckets and repay him, as Hutchins indicated that he was travelling back to Mustique, where he worked.

Tannis said he then hired a taxi and cleared 11 of the 12 buckets. However, before he could leave the customs, a police officer approached the vehicle and asked how he was related to the buckets.

He said the officer told him something and shortly after Hutchins called and informed him that “Southie” was on his way to collect the buckets.

The store owner further told the court that he, the police officer and the taxi driver packed the paint into his (Tannis) storeroom and shortly after, Gomez, who he revealed was “Southie”, came to his business place, reimbursed him for clearing the buckets and proceeded to unpack the paint from the storeroom onto the sidewalk.

He related that shortly after, police officers came from different angles and arrested Gomez.

Lesroy Sergeant, the customs officer involved in the incident, also testified that he agreed to clear the buckets of paint through customs after Hutchins had contacted him.

During questioning by defence attorney Israel Bruce, the customs officer told the court that he observed that on the freight document the consignee was listed as “Gabrielle Goofy,” instead of Gabrielle Hutchins and so he created a bill of sight in order to create a nexus to the buckets to clear them.

According to the customs officer, he thought he was clearing buckets of paint and could not recall if the accused, Junior Gomez, was listed on the documents as the consignor/exporter.

PC 41 Al Campbell, an officer stationed at the Drug Squad Base and Julia Phillips, a senior customs officer, also took the stand on Wednesday to testify.

On Monday, Bruce, who represents Gomez and Grant Connell, Hutchins’ advocate, argued to have the charges dropped, because the case had seen a number of adjournments.

According to them, Gomez, who resides in Trinidad, has been prevented from seeing his family for over nine months, while Hutchins lost his job as a chef in Mustique and is now unable to provide for his family because of the charges.

When they were charged on November 8, 2015, Gomez and Hutchins pleaded not guilty to charges of possession of a controlled drug with intent to supply to another; possession of a controlled drug for the purpose of drug trafficking; importing a controlled drug for the purpose of drug trafficking; and conspiring with each other between November 1 and 7 to commit the offence of drug trafficking at Port Elizabeth, Bequia, on Friday, November 6, 2015.

The trial is expected to resume on September 19. (AS)