Local boat owner in St Lucia drugs, guns bust surrenders

- cops checking out story

The owner of the local cargo vessel, which was intercepted in St Lucian waters laden with drugs and weapons, has surrendered to police, who are still checking out “the story” he has given.

Speaking to Stabroek News yesterday, Crime Chief Seelall Persaud said that the owner of Vicky B, identified only as “Mr Sookram,” surrendered some time recently in the company of his lawyer. He added that he has given the investigators information which is still being checked. The man had been in hiding after the bust.

Persaud noted that the local aspect of the investigation–-determining when the boat left among other things—is still in progress. However, he said that there was nothing so far which suggests that the drugs, weapons and grenades that were found, left from these shores.

According to information out of the Royal St Lucia Police Force (RSLPF), on Saturday, September 24, about 10.30 pm, a combined unit of police officers intercepted the cargo ship about six nautical miles off the town of Soufriere, Saint Lucia.

A thorough search of the ship revealed a number of items, including 30 kilos of cocaine, 46 kilos of cannabis, 1 12-gauge shotgun, 15 rounds of 12-gauge ammunition, 35 rounds of 9mm ammunition and five military explosive grenades. The items were all concealed in a compartment at the extreme front of the ship.

The RSLPF spokesman, Trevor Constantine, had told this newspaper from the island that according to the men they left Guyana in an empty boat for Montserrat to collect sand, which was to be taken St Maarten. He said police on the island received “high tech” information that resulted in the interception of the vessel and the subsequent discovery of the illegal items.

An investigation later led to weapon charges against Linden-born boxing promoter David ‘Shakes’ Christopher and his wife. They appeared in court and were granted bail in the sum of EC$10,000 cash or surety each.

The Guyanese crewmembers who were aboard the vessel—Carlton Rushel Sam, 29; Hardatt Sookram, 45; Tandu Satesh Ramkissoon, 18; Selwyn St Clair France, 40; Narine Cheecharran, 28; Noel Persaud, 59 (the captain)—have since been slapped with ten charges each and are on remand awaiting a ‘sufficiency hearing’ on November 11, which will determine whether there is enough evidence against them for a High Court trial.

The men were charged with possession of controlled drugs, to wit, cocaine; possession of controlled drugs to wit, cannabis; possession with intent to supply cocaine; possession with intent to supply cannabis; importation of cocaine; importation of cannabis; possession of a 12-gauge shotgun; possession of 15 rounds of 12-gauge ammunition; possession of 35 rounds of 9mm firearm and possession of 5 live grenades.

Persaud had told Stabroek News a few days after the bust that one of the men was known to be in drug-related activities.

Relatives of some of the men have said the crew left Guyana four days before the interception. After they were arrested, they called relatives saying that they were in trouble and asking that the boat owner be alerted about what had happened.

Barbara, the mother of Cheecharran, had said that when she finally made contact with the owner, the man said he had heard of the incident and that it was not a matter involving the boat but rather the crew members. The boat owner gave her all assurances that he was going to contact a lawyer on the matter. Calls to the owner by the woman and other crewmembers’ relatives later went unanswered.