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Judge laments ‘all kinds of drug exportation cases’ in St James


Parish Court Judge Kaysha Grant has lamented St James’ status as a haven for drug activity in recent years, particularly the trafficking and distribution of cocaine through ports and mail.

“This is the parish that we have seen all kinds of drug exportation cases, and what is popular is people using DHL and FedEx to transport drugs,” she said on Monday, referencing two courier companies.

“The drug is so valuable that there are contingencies that are put in place if you are held with it,” Grant added while presiding over the bail hearing for 20-year-old British national Ashanta Ferguson, who was slapped with several charges on November 21 in relation to two kilograms of cocaine valued at £50,000 (J$9.2 million).

The St James Parish Court has had a number of drug cases placed on its docket in recent times, with the street value of the drugs in each being worth millions of dollars. These include the case of businessman Oral Johnson, who was allegedly held with 19 pounds of cocaine during a police operation in Coral Gardens on April 28; and the ongoing trial of four Sangster International Airport employees – Indra Waite, Brelanie Reid, Tavon Murray, and Romaine Kerr – who were charged in October 2021 with attempting to smuggle 11.4 kilograms of cocaine valued at $88.1 million on to a flight bound for Canada.

Grant also complained during Monday’s hearing about the efforts that alleged drug traffickers will undertake in defiance of efforts to stop the trade, citing the case of Americans Regina West-Thompson and Simone Bolden, who absconded bail in 2021 despite stop orders in place to prevent them leaving Jamaica.

“Bail was granted to two young women, for the same kind of drugs, and before their next court appearance they just vanished, and I do not think they left using their passports,” said Grant.

West-Thompson and Bolden were arrested in June 2021 after they were reportedly held with nine pounds of cocaine valued at $6.7 million at the Sangster International Airport and were each granted bail in the sum of $1 million.

However, the court was told on December 16, 2021 that they had absconded despite being placed under strict curfew orders and being ordered to report to the police daily.

Grant, who was the presiding judge in that matter, ordered bench warrants for the women’s arrest. There has been no further development in the case to date.

On Monday, she eventually granted Ferguson bail in the sum of $1 million with three sureties after her attorney, Charles Williams, said that his client had been duped into carrying the knapsack in which the drugs were allegedly found.

“She came to spend two weeks with her father, but unfortunately her boyfriend told her to bring a bag back with her, and being naïve, she took it. We submit that she is not a flight risk because of her father, who is Jamaican, and because her travel documents will be with the police,” said Williams.

Ferguson was ordered to surrender her travel documents and a stop order placed at all airports and seaports.

“Let us see if that will keep you here. Until this matter comes to an end, you cannot leave this country,” the judge told Ferguson before setting the matter for mention on January 23, 2023.