Tower Suites owner was held by US after elaborate operation

-DEA played major role, drug deal `meetings’ were convened in Georgetown, Jamaica, Colombia

Shervington Lovell

A US arrest warrant was out for Guyanese businessman Shervington Lovell since August following months of investigation by the US DEA which entailed him meeting with confidential sources (CSs) in Georgetown and Jamaica as they allegedly planned a cocaine shipment to the Netherlands.

According to US court documents seen by Stabroek News, Lovell, a principal in Tower Suites in Georgetown, allegedly sought help on how to launder money from the Netherlands as while he had reportedly done so from the US and Canada it was a first for the European country.

It was following the interception of a cocaine-laden vessel, 350 miles off Diamond Valley, Barbados on July 27th 2018 that a sealed US arrest warrant was issued for Lovell. He and his co-conspirators (CCs) were allegedly hoping to traffic the 624 kilogrammes of cocaine to the Netherlands via the Azores.

Lovell, also called ‘Big Head,’ and Colombian, Ricardo Ramirez were arrested along with a Surinamese national on October 25th at the Norman Manley International Airport in Jamaica on drug trafficking charges.

It is not clear if Lovell, who also owns the Leisure Inn Hotel in New Amsterdam, has already been extradited to the US but he has now been charged with one count of conspiracy to Violate Maritime Drug Enforcement Law. He has been charged along with David Cardona-Cardona, Jean-Claude Okongo Landji, Jibril Adamu, Agremiro Zapata-Castro and Steven Antonius. While Lovell faces one charge,  his co-accused face several other charges which include distributing cocaine in the US using an aircraft and possession of a firearm.

According to the complaint filed against Lovell, in or about April and July 2018 in Guyana, Jamaica and Colombia on the high seas and elsewhere he and others intentionally and knowingly combined, conspired, confederated, and agreed together and with each other to violate the maritime drug enforcement laws of the US. They knowingly intended to use a vessel to distribute and possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance in violation of Title 46 of the United States Code Section 70503 (a) (1).

According to DEA Special Agent Jeffrey E. Stratton, it all started to go downhill for Lovell when he and two of his co-conspirators (who are not named as defendants in the complaint) started meeting with four CSs, inclusive of a convicted drug trafficker, and during these meetings they arranged for the maritime shipment of a large quantity of cocaine on board a stateless vessel provided by a co-conspirator who was actually working with the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). All of the meetings were initiated at the direction of the DEA.

According to Stratton, on or about April 18th at the DEA’s direction, two of the CSs met with Lovell and two other co-conspirators not named as defendants at a hotel in Georgetown, Guyana. From the recordings of the meeting, Stratton said the group discussed sending a shipment of approximately 400 kilogrammes of cocaine to the Netherlands for which one of the CSs said he would provide the transportation. It was at that meeting Lovell allegedly said that he was looking for a way to retrieve his earnings after the cocaine was sold in the Netherlands since he had previously laundered money from the US and Canada but never from the Netherlands.

Montego Bay

On June 5th another meeting occurred at a residence in Montego Bay, Jamaica where discussions about transporting the drugs to the Netherlands were held. They all agreed to provide a portion of the estimated US$400,000 to transship the drugs. One of the CSs said he would have purchased three months’ worth of rations for the voyage. In the absence of Lovell, the CSs met in Georgetown on June 23 during which coordinates to which the boat was expected to take the cocaine to the transshipment vessel were raised. The vessel was expected to be loaded with cocaine from allegedly Lovell and another person.

Then on July 5th Lovell and the others met in Guyana where the CSs agreed to pay one of the co-conspirators US$100,000 as well as 25 kilogrammes of cocaine in return for the shipment of cocaine. They provided US$45,000 in cash at that meeting. Another meeting was held on the same day in a hotel room and plans were further made for the upcoming shipment of cocaine to the Netherlands.

A meeting was held on July 16th in Colombia but Lovell was absent. Discussions were held on  their plans. One of the co-conspirators provided US$295,000 in payment for the venture and it was revealed that the sum was laundered from South Africa. It was planned that the vessel would retrieve the cocaine from the small boat 500 miles from Trinidad and Tobago.

The vessel departed on July 19th but eight days later on July 27th a US Coast Guard boat intercepted it in the vicinity of Barbados. The vessel displayed no nationality by flag or otherwise. When the Coast Guard approached the vessel, a passenger identified himself as the ‘master’ of the vessel. He was later identified as a Venezuelan national who attended the meetings. A large quantity of fuel was found on the vessel.

Mattresses were observed on the crew area and beneath these, wooden planks were found and when those were lifted up they revealed bales or large bundles wrapped in green and clear plastic and packed in duffel bags. It was later discovered that the bales contained cocaine which when weighed amounted to 624 kilogrammes. A magazine containing 30 rounds of ammunition was also found.

Chillingly, another meeting was held on August 10th in Medellin, Colombia after the interdiction.  but Lovell was absent. During this meeting the co-operating witnesses met with co-conspirator-4 and discussed the interdiction of the vessel. Stratton deposed that the CSes and CC-4 discussed that as a result of the interdiction,  CC-1 owed the CSes and CC-4 US$260,000.

It was after this Stratton requested that an arrest warrant be issued for Lovell and for it to remain sealed.

It was through the company S&S Mining, Shervington and his brother Shawn purchased the Tower Suites hotel in 2015 at a reported cost of $766 million and undertook major renovations. Then just three years later, in 2018, he was able to open the Leisure Inn Hotel in Berbice, which had a price tag of around

$450 million.

The Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) is currently conducting a money laundering investigation centred on him.

He was tracked when he left Guyana and the Jamaican authorities were reported to have been waiting for him and his associates. As soon as he stepped off the plane, he was nabbed. He is said to also own properties on that island as well and it is expected that these will be seized by the authorities there.

His arrest reportedly followed “months of investigations” by local, regional and international authorities.

Stabroek News was told previously that the heads of CANU, SOCU and the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) were expected to meet to discuss the matter.

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