The business executive Charles Herbert, one of three men who have dominated the news since Tuesday, after it was revealed that they were arrested on drug charges, has gone public to protest his innocence.
Herbert, the chairman of Goddard Enterprises Limited (GEL) and head of the Barbados Private Sector Association, along with non-executive director Chris Rogers and GEL employee Walter Oneal Prescod, was today charged with four drugs offences, including importation of 267 pounds of cannabis, estimated by police to have a street value of $534,160.
They were also charged with possession, possession with intent to supply and trafficking of the drug on July 23. They were not required to plead to the indictable charge.
However, after posting $400, 000 bail with two sureties the 62-year-old Herbert, of Redland Plantation, St George, spoke publicly about the charge against him and the 56-year-old Rogers of #27 York Road, Navy Gardens, Christ Church, insisting they were both innocent.
“I first want to assert clearly to the public that we are entirely innocent of all of the charges that have been brought and we have been charged with,” the Goddard boss said, making no reference to Prescod, who in 2001 had pleaded guilty and was jailed for 12 years for importation and possession of 250 pounds of marijuana on March 3, 2000.
“I want to say clearly to you all that all of the evidence that they [police] have clearly supports our innocence,” said Herbert, who along with Rogers and Prescod, spent the last four days being questioned by lawmen.
He also called on the Director of Public Prosecutions Donna Babb-Agard, QC, “to urgently review the evidence that has been collected and to preserve the integrity of our police force in bringing these charges against us”.
Acting on a tip off, members of the Drug Squad found the contraband on Monday aboard the yacht Ecstasy, owned by Goddard Enterprises Limited. All three men were onboard the vessel at the time.
Without stating why he felt the two were not guilty, Herbert said he was “shocked” by the charges levelled against him and his colleague, stating:
“We can only assume that the people who made the decision lack the courage to stand by the truth that they themselves have uncovered and that they are sworn to uphold.”
The businessman also took a shot at the media, along with posters on social media, complaining they had tried “to convict us before we were even charged and when they have no knowledge of any of the evidence”. “This is not the country that I live in, that we convict people without knowing any evidence,” he said, charging that a country that “wants blood” was turning him into a sacrificial lamb.
“We are coming out of a time in Barbados where the population feels that they have been taken advantage of by some politicians and business people and our country wants blood. But it is not our job to give the blood of innocent people, but I understand the demand and the concern that the country has in wanting somebody to blame for the situation that we are in, but I am not that person,” he said as members of his and Rogers’ family stood behind them for support.
Herbert, who Goddard said in a brief statement yesterday remains at chairman even as his deputy, William Putnam was named acting chairman, said he would make a determination on his future as chairman and head of the private sector give the current situation.
“I have to review whether I am even able to do so while a charge of drug trafficking hangs over my head and challenges my credibility. Any decision that I make will be in the interest of the company that I represent. If my continuing harms them then I will not continue. If I hurt the credibility of the private sector then I will certainly resign my position,” he added.
About half an hour prior to Herbert’s statement to the media in the courtyard, police had asked reporters to clear the area near the stairs of the No. 1 District ‘A’ Magistrate’s Court as uniformed officers escorted the three men inside.
The prosecutor, Station Sergeant Samuel Hinds, objected to bail for all three, based on the seriousness of the indictable charges as well as the fact that the accused men had access to vessels and could “readily flee the country if they so desired”.
However, attorneys Andrew Pilgrim, QC, and Kamisha Benjamin disagreed, arguing that their clients, Herbert and Rogers, were fit candidates for bail and that the prosecution’s objections did not hold water as the two men were born and bred Barbadians with strong family ties and business interests. Pilgrim also pointed out that people charged in the past in connection with higher quantities of drugs had been granted bail.
Pilgrim further argued that the vessel on which the contraband was found was currently with police and no arrangements had been made for its release.
Attorneys-at-law Shadia Simpson and Arthur Holder are representing Prescod. However, Holder was not in court today because he was performing his duties as Speaker of the House.
It was left to Simpson to plead on Prescod’s behalf and she argued that her client was a good candidate for bail despite his previous convictions for similar charges, reminding the court that the last offence was some 17 years ago.
Furthermore, she stated that Prescod was an employee of Goddard Enterprises and did not own the vessel.
After mulling over the arguments Magistrate Douglas Frederick agreed with the defence.
Herbert must report to the District ‘F’ Police Station every Wednesday by 10 a.m. and Rogers to the Hastings Police Station every Wednesday by 10 a.m. The businessmen, who return to court on November 6, also had to surrender their travel documents to the court.
However, Prescod, who was offered bail of $450,000 bail because of his previous convictions, was remanded because his surety did not make it to court in time.
He returns to the No. 1 District Magistrate’s Court on Monday for another chance at freedom.