Trinidad: $6m bail for two women charged in Westmoorings drug bust

Krys­tiana Sankar and Yan­nis Peb­bles Au­gus­tine

(Trinidad Guardian) The fam­i­lies of Krys­tiana Sankar and Yan­nis “Peb­bles” Au­gus­tine will have to find $6 mil­lion each for their free­dom.

This af­ter the women were both grant­ed the hefty bail by Mag­is­trate Aden Stroude yes­ter­day when they ap­peared in the Port-of-Spain Mag­is­trates’ Court charged in the $3.8 mil­lion drug bust in West­moor­ings.

But the women had to spend yet an­oth­er night in jail as their fam­i­lies did not have enough time to present the nec­es­sary doc­u­men­ta­tion be­fore a Clerk of the Peace to se­cure their im­me­di­ate free­dom yes­ter­day.

Sankar and Au­gus­tine reap­peared along­side co-ac­cused Aru­ba Eligon and Jer­von Cole in the 4A Court for their bail hear­ing, hav­ing spent the week­end in jail af­ter their bail hear­ing was ad­journed on Fri­day so the po­lice could con­duct nec­es­sary search­es.

Yes­ter­day was an­oth­er long day for the ac­cused as they ar­rived at court at around 8.30 am and it was an­oth­er two hours be­fore the mat­ter was called. When the mat­ter start­ed their at­tor­neys con­tin­ued to ques­tion the pros­e­cu­tion’s stance con­cern­ing bail. The court­room was cleared just be­fore lunch when the pros­e­cu­tion was asked to present specifics of their case by de­fence at­tor­ney Criston J Williams, who rep­re­sent­ed Au­gus­tine.

The mat­ter re­sumed at 1.30 pm and Mag­is­trate Stroude de­liv­ered his bail rul­ing de­liv­ered at around 2.15 pm. Au­gus­tine, of St Lu­cien Road, Diego Mar­tin, broke down in tears when she was called and heard the rul­ing.

But while Sankar, of Blue Range, Diego Mar­tin and Au­gus­tine, a life­guard and swim coach, may pos­si­bly be out of prison to­day, their two male co-ac­cused will not have that op­tion.

Eligon was de­nied bail out­right as this was his third drug-re­lat­ed charge. He was sen­tenced for traf­fick­ing in 2011 and paid a fine in an­oth­er mat­ter 2017.

Cole’s on­ly pre­vi­ous brush­es with the law were road traf­fic of­fences, but the mag­is­trate was re­luc­tant to grant him bail be­cause it could not be proven that he lived at the two ad­dress­es he sub­mit­ted —Wa­ter­wheel Trace and Sea Trace, Diego Mar­tin, re­spec­tive­ly. Cole then gave a third ad­dress where he said he lived with his girl­friend. The court will now re­con­sid­er his bail ap­pli­ca­tion next Mon­day af­ter this new in­for­ma­tion is ver­i­fied.

The four were ar­rest­ed last week Tues­day fol­low­ing a raid at Apart­ment 1 at Re­gent Gar­dens, West­moor­ings, by a Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions Re­sponse Team of the T&T Po­lice Ser­vice. An es­ti­mat­ed $3.8 mil­lion worth of drugs ($3.4m in mar­i­jua­na and $400,000 in co­caine) were seized in the bust.

The four were joint­ly charged with pos­ses­sion of mar­i­jua­na and co­caine for the pur­pose of traf­fick­ing. Sankar was al­so charged with pos­ses­sion of a firearm and am­mu­ni­tion af­ter a gun was found dur­ing the raid.

Bail ap­pli­ca­tion process

All bail ap­pli­ca­tions are pri­mar­i­ly gov­erned by the Bail Act.

There is a pre­sump­tion in favour of the grant­i­ng of bail un­less the pros­e­cu­tion can pro­duce sub­stan­tial grounds to sat­is­fy the court that an ac­cused would ei­ther ab­scond, in­ter­fere with wit­ness­es or they should be de­tained for his own pro­tec­tion. (Sec­tion 6 of the Bail Act)

The Bail Act pro­vides con­di­tions and fac­tors a court should take in­to con­sid­er­a­tion when con­sid­er­ing the grant­i­ng of bail to ac­cused.

The first ap­pli­ca­tion for bail is made to a mag­is­trate who has the pow­er to re­mand an ap­pli­cant in cus­tody pend­ing a po­lice re­port or the crim­i­nal record of the ac­cused per­son.

Bail un­der $10,000 is con­sid­ered to be own bail and can be ac­cessed sim­ply by the ac­cused ‘sign­ing’ their bond. This type of bail is re­served for mi­nor of­fences.

Where bail is grant­ed ‘with a sure­ty to be ap­proved’, the ac­cused per­son will have to find a landown­er (nor­mal­ly a fam­i­ly mem­ber or a close friend) whose prop­er­ty val­ue must ex­ceed that of the bail.

The prop­er­ty must be prop­er­ly val­ued, as in the event of a breach the court has the pow­er to seize the prop­er­ty and sell it on the open mar­ket in sat­is­fac­tion of the sureties bond.

For this pur­pose, the prop­er­ty should have a val­u­a­tion not more than three months old; there must be a cer­ti­fied copy of the ti­tle doc­u­ments along with two util­i­ty bills and two forms of iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. It is al­so nec­es­sary that the land should be free from en­cum­brances, in­clud­ing a mort­gage and is not be­ing used for the pur­pos­es of bail in any oth­er court in Trinidad and To­ba­go.

The doc­u­ments are sub­mit­ted to a clerk of the peace who checks the va­lid­i­ty of the deed and whether or not the deed has been used to ob­tain bail be­fore. If the deed is not ap­proved it can­not be used to ob­tain bail.

A mag­is­trate who sets bail has the pow­er, if they be­lieve there is a risk of a breach of bail, to set con­di­tions such as to sur­ren­der a pass­port and the re­port­ing of the ac­cused per­son to a po­lice sta­tion.

Where bail is re­fused by a mag­is­trate, the Act pro­vides for an ap­peal to a judge of the High Court ‘in cham­bers’ and if the High Court judge re­fus­es bail, by way of ap­peal to the Court of Ap­peal.

A mag­is­trate can­not set bail or vary where a High Court re­fus­es un­less there has been a sub­stan­tial change in cir­cum­stances.

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