$1.25-b drugs bust
Hi-tech equipment, boat and map of South America also seized in Westmoreland
Wednesday, October 17, 2001
WESTERN BUREAU — The police in Westmoreland were last night confident that they will make an early breakthrough in yesterday’s massive drug find in the Belmont area of the parish, in which cocaine and ganja with an estimated street value of over $1.25 billion were seized.
A boat, two engines and a map of South America were also confiscated.
The major operation apparently began at about 10:00 pm Monday when residents said they heard the sound of a helicopter in the skies of their normally quiet neighbourhood. A team of about 17, comprising men from the Westmoreland police Narcotics Division, others from Kingston and Montego Bay, plus members of the Jamaica Defence Force, some of whom were flying the helicopter, carried out the operation.
The Observer was also told that Colombian police assisted by providing information that led to the seizure.
The team worked throughout the night and by 7:30 am yesterday, after a high-speed chase conducted by coast guards in the sea off the coast of Bluefields, and a raid on a house had netted one of the island’s largest drug hauls in recent times.
The contraband was found at a wooden two-bedroom house in Belmont, which, according to Observer sources, was rented to “outsiders” about three months ago. Yesterday morning, the door of the house, located about 50 feet away from the rocky shoreline, still stood open. The police had pried it off to gain entry.
During the operation, the police reportedly seized from the house:
* 43 bales of cocaine weighing 977.3 kilogrammes (2,150 lbs);
* eight kilogrammes (25 lbs) of ganja;
* two, 200-horsepower Yamaha engines;
* two satellite phones;
* one cellular phone; and
* a map of South America.
A 35-foot fibreglass boat that was docked at sea, near the house was also confiscated by the police.
According to a police source, the nature of the captured equipment points to the sophistication of the drug trade that has now sprung up in sections of the island.
“With that equipment, you can communicate on the high seas, almost anywhere in the world,” the source said.
Although no arrest was made during the operation, the Constabulary Communication Network liaison officer for Westmoreland, Corporal Alva Douglas, told the Observer that some are likely to be made soon.
“We are optimistic that we are going to make arrests soon; we have found documents in the house which include drivers’ licences of persons whom we believe occupy the dwelling, and we are presently looking for them,” Douglas said.
Yesterday’s drug find comes on the heels of another seizure made in the Whitehouse area, eight miles away, less than two weeks ago.
At that time, the police reportedly seized five packets of cocaine weighing 113 kilogrammes (250 lbs), three cellular phones, flashlights, portable radios and a Toyota Hiace minibus.
According to the police, the seizure was made after the occupants of the minibus, who were signalled to stop by cops, abandoned the vehicle.
Last week, nine cops from the Whitehouse Police Station in Westmoreland were transferred by Police Commissioner Francis Forbes, after concerns were raised about how they had handled that drug find.