Mariner Of The Seas Cruise Ship Crew Drug Bust- May 17, 2007
The Philipsburg St. Maarten criminal session of the Court of First Instance on Wednesday was devoted entirely to the so-called Mariner of the Seas case. All nine suspects on trial allegedly were involved in the import and export of drugs through the Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, Mariner Of The Seas.
Authorities uncovered and intercepted a major drug smuggling operation on May 17, in which Mariner of the Seas was allegedly used to import marijuana into St. Maarten from Aruba and to transport large quantities of cocaine to Miami, Florida.
Prosecutor Paul Mooij considered all his cases proven by the end of Wednesday’s court hearing and demanded prison sentences ranging from 19 months for the smaller players to five and seven years for the alleged kingpins in this illegal venture.
The suspects were accused of having attempted to smuggle nine kilos of cocaine, 500 grams of heroin and four kilos of marijuana on May 17. According to the Prosecutor, the gang held similar operations every week, hiring rooms at a Front Street hotel to set up headquarters and pack the drugs.
Wednesday’s trial followed Tuesday’s conviction of three of the ship’s Jamaican crew members to 18-month conditional jail sentences. The three will be handed over to the Immigration Department and will soon be repatriated to their home country.
On Wednesday, most suspects flatly denied any involvement in the drug-smuggling operations. Only 26-year old from Jamaica admitted to having assisted in the import of marijuana, while denying he had also been involved in the more lucrative and also more punishable act of exporting cocaine.
The suspect’s lawyers sometimes went to great length in trying to convince the judge that there was not enough evidence to convict their clients on the charges brought forward. They cited various reasons, among which, in their eyes, were wrongful interpretations of telephone conversations listened in to by members of the Kingdom Detective Cooperation Team RST and their sometimes “speculative” interpretations of these conversations.
Judge Rick Smid took it all in and will rule in all nine cases on August 29.
According to Mooij, a 32-year old Palestinian, 36-year old Jamaica, and 33-year old from Colombia had been the coordinators and merchants of the operation, in which backpacks, shoes and banana-shaped packages to be hidden in men’s underwear were used to carry the illegal merchandise off and on the ship.
The Prosecutor requested terms of five to seven years in which he gave all three convicted a reduction of 11 months for spending 84 days in police detention.
Mooij requested 30 months for a 24-year old girlfriend of one of the suspects from Jamaica on the allegation that she had been instrumental in handing over backpacks filled with drugs to the men who were supposed to bring them to the ship’s crew members.
The four Jamaican drug runners are all facing 30-month prison sentences, while Mooij asked for 19 months for one drug runner from the Dominican Republic.
Judge Smid indicated that the suspects’ pre-trial detention would be suspended if they were not transferred from the police station to the prison by Monday. It is expected that all suspects will be handed over to Immigration for repatriation to their home countries.