The third person held by police in Monday’s $3 million drug bust aboard the luxury yacht Ecstasy, owned by Goddard Enterprises Limited, has been identified as Walter O’Neal Prescod.
According to multiple sources intimately involved in the four-day long investigation, Prescod, 55, was the third crew member aboard the vessel along with Charles Herbert, the chairman of Goddard Enterprises and head of the Barbados Private Sector Association, and the company’s non-executive director Chris Rogers, all of whom are still being questioned by lawmen.
Since the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) issued a terse press release on Tuesday stating the Drug Squad which had “conducted an operation” on board the vessel at the Bridgetown Port had found “a quantity of marijuana” and “three crew members” were being questioned, the identity of the third “person of interest” had remained a mystery even as Herbert and Rogers were quickly identified, although not by the RBPF.
Goddard Enterprises Limited, which issued a statement yesterday naming Herbert’s deputy William Putnam as acting chairman. It also indicated that the third person was a member of staff.
However, like the police, it did not name the suspect, only stating that it “has become aware of a situation involving its vessel, two of its directors and a staff member, who have been detained by the police”.
It further stated that while no one had been charged, the company was confident that “police are engaged in their usual high standard of investigations and look forward to putting the matter behind them once the facts are fully known”.
“The company wishes to assure all of its stakeholders that it continues to uphold the highest standards of ethics and integrity which have been the backbone of this organization from its very beginnings,” the statement said.
Repeated attempts by Barbados TODAY since Tuesday to verify his identify finally paid off as the sources confirmed today that it was Prescod, who has a previous drug conviction.
He had pleaded guilty and was jailed 12 years back in March of 2001 for importation and possession of 250 pounds of marijuana on March 3, 2000.
Then a 42-year-old fish vendor, he was observed by police conducting surveillance on Porter’s Road, St James, going to and from the beach. Seemingly realizing that he was spotted, he fled, leaving the cannabis in the trunks of two cars, and was later caught by lawmen after a high-speed chase.
In 2005 his attorneys Keith Simmons and Arthur Holder, the current Member of Parliament for St Michael Central and Speaker of the House, appealed the 12-year sentence, contending, among other arguments, that Prescod had been contrite and had made good use of his time while rehabilitating in prison.
Holder is back in the picture in the current case, stating yesterday that he was representing one of the persons of interest in Monday’s drug seizure. However, this afternoon the prominent attorney would neither confirm nor deny if he were representing Prescod in this matter.
“I really don’t have a comment to make on the matter. I cannot say whether he [Prescod] is my client or not,” he said.
Questions have been raised about Prescod’s employment at Goddard, including whether or not the company had conducted a background check. However, the company’s comments on the incident have been limited to its acknowledgement of the situation and its confidence in the police to investigate the matter.
Goddard issued a second statement today insisting that Herbert “still remains the chairman” of the Goddard group and that Putnam “will be acting in the role of chairman until such time as Charles Herbert can resume his official role as chairman of the Goddard Group”.
“Goddard’s continues to support the outstanding work of police in their efforts to bring the investigation to a timely close,” today’s statement said.
The RBPF’s silence since Tuesday’s brief statement has also led to suggestions that the Force was bungling the investigation in this high-profile case.
Of major concern was the fact that police have been questioning the men without charge since Monday, well past the 48-hour legal deadline by which charges should have been brought or the men released.
However, Public Relations Officer of the RBPF Acting Inspector Rodney Inniss told Barbados TODAY the public’s suggestions were unfounded, explaining that such lengthy probes were not unusual in cases of this nature.
“The police are carrying their investigations thoroughly and we need to give them time to carry it out. There is nothing more to update the public on at this time but when we have something, we will update the public through an official media release,” Inniss said.