US agent claims J’can fishermen were held for 600 lbs of ganja

The five Jamaican fishermen picked up by United States Homeland Security investigators in September 2017 off the Haitian coast were charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute some 613 pounds of marijuana, according to an affidavit filed by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Jesus Pertierra.

Pertierra, who filed the affidavit in the United States Southern District Court of Florida, said the charges followed an incident in which the fishermen were seen throwing bales overboard after they were spotted in a go-fast vessel approximately 12 nautical miles south-west of Navassa Island, on September 24, 2017.

Pertierra named the five men who are from St Ann as Robert Weir, the captain of the Jamaican vessel; Patrick Ferguson; David Williams; Luther Patterson; and George Thompson. However, more recent reports following the decision by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to file a lawsuit last Wednesday in Florida, claiming that the Coast Guard had improperly detained four Jamaicans, excluded Thompson. No mention has been made of him in local reports either, and there has been no indication of his whereabouts.

Pertierra’s affidavit said that as the men were all citizens of Jamaica, they were transferred to Coast Guard vessel USCG Confidence, along with the suspected narcotics seized during the operation.

He said that the Jamaican authorities were consulted to determine the vessel’s registry, which was confirmed, and the coast guard was authorised to board and search the vessel. However, he added that the Jamaican authorities later waived jurisdiction of the vessel, which was then deemed to be without nationality and subject to the jurisdiction of the US, causing a delay in deployment. The men were then taken to the US on October 16.

He also claimed that the agents who searched the vessel found no fishing gear, although the men insisted that they were fishing. The vessel, he said, had seven 20-gallon fuel drums and two 55-gallon fuel drums.

He said that the US Coast Guard also found several bales of marijuana which had been thrown overboard from the vessel.