In November 2012 what would be described as the biggest drug bust of the year had resulted from the interception of a water vessel by police in the island’s north. The police had boarded the vessel Targora, berthed at Rodney Bay. A search uncovered 109.6 kilos of cocaine with a street value of EC$2.7 million, according to police. The vessel’s lone occupant, 66-year-old French national Roger Tinard, was arrested and charged.
Last week the media announced another “largest cocaine bust.” But this time there was no police confirmation, no parading of suspects. It was as if the bust was, well, a bust that never happened. Before long the speculations had started, with callers to the talk shows recalling earlier busts and how upfront had been the police press department.
On Tuesday the police broke their silence, sort of. ACP Frances Henry assured the STAR they had nothing to hide, that she would address the media on the matter later that day. Instead, she spoke to the press the following day—ten days after the fact. Henry said there had actually been three busts, not just one as was generally thought.
She officially confirmed the police had been engaged in “a lot of interdiction of narcotics over the last week.” On Sunday April 28, about 3 am, a team comprising various police units including the marine police and central intelligence had taken part in an operation off the Pigeon island causeway that involved a fishing vessel named “Usual Suspect!”
Henry revealed that the vessel’s two occupants had attempted to elude police. One of them was nevertheless apprehended and taken back to the Marisule beach. A search of the area uncovered eight packages containing 189 blocks of “what appeared to be cocaine,” and weighed 214 kilos.
Police took custody of the vessel and its captain. He was charged on May 4 with possession of a controlled drug and other related crimes. He made his first court appearance on Monday but “since the magistrate did not have jurisdiction, the matter was sent over for case management.”
Henry refused to comment on rumours that some of the confiscated drugs had gone missing: “I do not support speculation or innuendos. Whatever else you may have picked up on the ground, I am not privy to. Neither will I attempt to give reasons why these utterances were made.”
As for the time it took before police confirmation of the Marisule bust: “It was very deliberate and very strategic. In my domain as crime chief, while police are engaged
in incidents of narco-trafficking, pursuit or even an apprehension, that does not bring the operation to a halt. This is not the termination of an operation. We were still in operation mode up until Friday of last week and we wanted to ensure we had covered all of our bases. In this particular instance, we did not bring it to a halt until late Friday afternoon.”
She said the police never intended to be “evasive.” There was “no clandestine activity taking place behind the scenes.” What was happening, Henry emphasized, was that the police were “still very much in operation mode.”
The crime chief revealed she had soon after the bust indicated to certain reporters that there had been a major seizure and that she was unable to divulge much else. Had that been reported, she said, it would have helped quell the rumours that the police were engaged in a cover-up.
Also on Sunday 28 April, Henry said, police in the south intercepted another fishing vessel called “Euro” with six people on board, including a Vincentian national.
Four plastic bags containing 132 pounds of cannabis were confiscated. The individuals were later charged for possession of controlled drugs and possession with intent to supply.
The third drug bust had occurred on Sunday May 5 when the marine unit intercepted a fishing vessel called “Hot It Up,” west of Ciceron. The occupants had attempted to dump their illicit cargo, that turned out to be 162 pounds of compressed marijuana.
Said Henry, finally: “We will do all that is necessary to keep our borders straight.” Back in November, she said, the authorities had recognized that the island had “very porous borders.” Nevertheless, she wanted to assure Saint Lucians that “no matter the intervention we are committed to keeping our country safe.”