By: Erasmus Williams
Basseterre, St Kitts, July 7, 2020 – Two customs officers and another man have been sentenced to serve nearly 15 years in jail for the roles they played in the evasion of customs duties, the illegal importation of a firearm and the importation of cannabis with a street value of EC$50,000.
Customs officers, Romain Tota and Karim Maynard facilitated Leon Isaac in the removal of a box containing an air mattress and a deep fryer without paying customs duties from the Cargo Shed at the Robert L Bradshaw International Airport on May 8, 2017.
Police that same morning executed a warrant on a home in Conaree Village and found two smaller boxes in which a magazine, the barrel of a 9 mm pistol, and three packages containing 838 grams of cannabis in the box with the air mattress and deep fryer.
The five-count indictment was brought against the three in July 2019 and during the trial earlier this year, Tota and Maynard were found guilty of five counts – fraudulent evasion, importation of a firearm, importation of a Controlled Drug, possession of Cannabis and Possession of Cannabis with intent to supply.
Isaac was found guilty of four counts – importation of a firearm, importation of a Controlled Drug, possession of Cannabis, and Possession of Cannabis with intent to supply.
In response to submissions made on behalf of Tota and Maynard during a sentencing hearing, Justice Thompson in his June 30 decision rejected a plea for the imposition of a fine and or community service on the evasion of the customs duties indictment.
Justice Thompson was of the view that the offence is serious and that Maynard and Tota acted contrary to the specific duties imposed on them as customs officers.
Taking into consideration that the three had been in custody since February 20, 2020, the period of four months and four days were deducted from the custodial sentence imposed.
He rejected a plea for suspension of a custodial sentence for the customs officers on the evasion of duty, pointing out that “immediate custody is the only appropriate punishment.”
The Judge also rejected pleas for consideration in relation to the drug and gun charges pointing out the fact that the “defendants appear to have operated as a group, may have been motivated by financial advantage, had some awareness of the scope of the operation and abused their position of trust (Tota and Maynard), point inexorably to a finding that they equally played a significant role and this is borne out by the facts.”
Justice Thompson sentenced Maynard to nine (9) months imprisonment and Tota to six (6) months on the fraudulent evasion of duty charges.
Maynard was jailed for four (4) years, Tota for three (3) and a half years and Isaac to six (6) years for the importation of the firearm charges.
For the importation of 838 grams of cannabis, a fine of EC$12,500 was imposed to be paid with twelve (12) months with effect from June 30, 2020.
Failure to pay the fine will attract 12 months imprisonment to be served consecutively to the terms imposed for the tax evasion and firearm charges.