There is no doubt that this holiday season will be extra special for several Guyanese families as five men are headed home after spending more than seven years on remand at Her Majesty’s Prison Dodds for trafficking huge quantities of marijuana and cocaine into Barbados.
Sixty-year-old Umbar Angad and his son, 27-year-old Rupee Angad as well as 38-year-old Travis Payne, 55-year-old Peter Granville Gonsalves and 48-year-old Shan Ali threw in the towel today and pleaded guilty in the Supreme Court located at Cane Garden, St Thomas, to six drug offences which were committed in this country’s territorial waters on November 3, 2011.
The encounter on the high seas on that day seven years ago was revealed when Acting Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Anthony Blackman recounted the events.
The prosecutor said two men from Barbados not now before the court set out to sea on the vessel Giving Thanks. They were still in the island’s territorial waters when they met up with another vessel called O’Harvest
The oldest Angard, who informed the court that he is the father of 21 children, was the captain of O’Harvest, Payne was the cook and the other three were all seamen. They offloaded a quantity of bags containing vegetable matter and a white substance onto Giving Thanks. The vessel with its two-man crew then set sail for Barbados while the O’Harvest which was also laden with vegetables such as cucumbers, watermelons and pumpkins continued on its trek to the Bridgetown Port.
However, they were in the crosshairs of the Coast Guard, which had received information on the high sea rendezvous.
The lawmen intercepted Giving Thanks some 1.5 nautical miles off Sandy Beach located at Worthing, Christ Church while the other vessel was also intercepted and escorted to port.
The CARICOM nationals wasted little time in giving verbal statements of their involvement in the illegal activity but only four gave written accounts to lawmen at Oistins Police Station.
Payne who suffered a stroke while in prison which affected his mobility and voice and is wheelchair-bound had to convey his remorse for the crime through his attorney Ezra Alleyne.
“He apologizes for what has happened . . . to the court and to the people of Barbados,” Alleyne stated after his client softly conveyed his regret to him.
Taking turns, the other four men told Madam Justice Pamela Beckles in the No.5 Supreme Court today: “I apologize to Barbados and to the court . . .” after admitting to possession, importation and trafficking of 183.5 kilogrammes of marijuana and 62.5 kilogrammes of cocaine.
The acting deputy DPP in addressing the court informed Justice Beckles that he had spoken to the DPP two years ago with respects to the matter and had come to a conclusion.
“I communicated that . . . . But for reasons best known to them they thought that they would go to trial. The unfortunate thing about that is that these now convicted men would have served an additional two years in prison when they could have been home with their families . . . it is very unfortunate that that happened,” Blackman explained.
However, in his submission as to the suitable punishment for the crime, Blackman acknowledged Payne’s health issues and went on to say that the men had already spent seven years and 18 days on remand. He then urged the court to consider time spent on remand as an appropriate sentence as the men had no prior convictions in Barbados – a submission that Alleyne fully agreed with.
Blackman also revealed that he would be making an application for the vessel to be forfeited to the Crown.
In examining the aggravating and mitigating factors of the case Justice Beckles revealed that the men waived their rights of having a pre-sentencing report compiled.
“The court must take into account the prevalence of these types of offences in this society . . . these offences are serious . . . which make each of you liable to a lengthy term of imprisonment,” the judge said.
Beginning at a starting point of ten years in prison, Justice Beckles gave discounts on the mitigating factors, which included their guilty plea, cooperation with the police and expressions of remorse as well as clean criminal records in Barbados.
As of today’s date the men had spent 2,573 days on remand awaiting trial, which was fully credited towards their sentence.
“The court accepts . . . and do not think that anything further will be gained by keeping you incarcerated and thereby sentence each of you to . . . time served [on the trafficking charges],” said Beckles as she convicted, reprimanded and discharged them on the other charges.
“I can only hope that in future you will not proceed on a path that will collide with the law and you will take this opportunity to go back and be with your family and make it up to your family,” the judge told the men who she then released into the custody of immigration officials for further action.
The men were then ushered out of the court and moments later some were seen waving to unidentified persons on the inside while Payne was lifted from his wheelchair into the rear of the van by an inmate.
“This is the last time I will be lifting you,” the inmate told Payne who smiled briefly while his other countrymen were escorted to the other side of the same vehicle.