Fighting back tears, the Vincentian owner of a fishing vessel, held here as evidence in a major drug case, this morning made an impassioned plea to the authorities here to return his only means of providing for his family.
Speaking to Barbados TODAY via telephone from his homeland, the trembling voice of Lenford Jack cried out to Barbadian law enforcement and judicial officials to relieve him of his suffering.
Jack, 42, reported his boat Genesis stolen from the Kingstown Harbour over a year ago, hours before Barbadian law enforcers intercepted the vessel with two of his fellow nationals onboard and later charged them with having nearly $1 million worth of drugs inside the boat.
The Vincentian fisherman provided Barbados TODAY with a letter from the Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force dated February 26, 2015 supporting his claim that he had reported his vessel missing. The letter stated that at 6 a.m. on February 16, 2015, Jack had reported to the Criminal Investigation Department in Kingstown that his fishing vessel had been stolen by unknown persons between 5.30 p.m. on Sunday, February 15 and 5.30 a.m. on Monday, February 16.
“Investigations were carried out; information received that the boat is in the custody of the Coast Guard Service in Barbados,” the correspondence said.
The two accused men were held by Barbadian authorities on the night of February 16 and the drug case of 43-year-old Elvis Matthew Toussaint and 35-year-old William Percival Browne is still pending.
The two men are charged with possession, possession with intent to supply, trafficking and importation of cannabis. They are also accused of entering Barbados by sea, other than at a port of entry and disembarking here without the consent of an immigration officer.
With the boat being held here as evidence, Jack complained that he had been unable to earn a “decent” living or provide for his four children ages 11 to 19.
The father of four has since retained the services of Vincentian attorney-at-law Vynette Frederick who, according to various pieces of correspondence obtained by Barbados TODAY, has pleaded with her country’s Attorney General Judith Jones-Morgan and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
However, Jack said he had been told they were unable to assist because the case was in the hands of the Barbadian authorities.
While the case drags on, Jack said he had lost about EC$40,000 (BDS$29,629.63) in income in the year since the boat was stolen. To try to make ends meet, he said, he depended on the “good graces” of other fishermen who allow him to share space aboard their vessels from time to time.
“I just keep working all the while until they [Barbados authorities] make a decision that I could come and get my boat. I have to pay EC$3,500 (BDS$2,592.59) per month for my loan for my home. Sometimes I fall short when I don’t catch enough fish and it back up and when I make a good catch I clear it off,” he told Barbados TODAY.
Asked what message he had for the Barbadians authorities, Jack said: “I would ask them kindly if they could help me that I could get back my boat that I could continue my living and take care of my family and pay my bills. I don’t know how long the procedure might take that I can get it back in my hand or what I have to do. I am willing to cooperate with everybody. Everybody down here [in St Vincent] know me . . . the police and dem, they know that I clean, that is why I can come forward; I have nothing to hold back, nobody don’t have no secrets holding fuh me.”
The veteran fisherman with 25 years experience insisted that he did not know any of the two men who stole his boat.
Meantime, commenting on Jack’s appeal, prominent criminal lawyer and former president of the Barbados Bar Association Andrew Pilgrim, QC, said the boat was not essential to the prosecution of the two Vincentian accused.
“They can prosecute these guys, they can photograph the boat, they can test the boat in any other ways and use that evidence to prosecute them,” said Pilgrim.
The senior counsel seemed to have reserved his strongest criticism for the Royal Barbados Police Force in relation to the gathering of evidence. “Keeping the boat is something that Barbadian police are doing in far too many cases; just holding people’s evidence, and it is not even property owned by the accused and disenfranchising people and taking away their property . . . and it should be illegal and should be prevented,” the outspoken attorney added.
Efforts to reach Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite proved unsuccessful.