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Drug convicts want cocaine value reduced before sentence

Nigel Registe (left) and Kevin Greaves leave the Magistrate's Court on February 28, 2014. Photo: VINO
ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI – Two men convicted on charges of possession of cocaine appeared before the Magistrate’s Court to have the court make a determination of the value of the cocaine they were found with, before sentencing could be passed.

Background

Nigel Registe, a Dominican national residing in St Thomas, was charged jointly with Kevin Greaves of St Thomas after the two were found by a patrol comprised of police and other law enforcement officers off Trunk Bay with six bricks of compressed cocaine which amounted to over 6kilos when weighed.

The duo was also charged for failing to declare $13,514.12.

The vessel spotted, an 18 foot go-fast boat referred to as a Donzi, was pursued and caught before an officer climbed aboard to conduct searches, along with the alleged captain and owner of the vessel, Nigel Registe.

A black bag containing six blocks of cocaine was discovered during the search under the bow and the men were cautioned and charged for the offence.

Greaves pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of cocaine, possession of a controlled drug and failing to declare monies to Customs; Registe denied the offences but was later found guilty on the same charges. Both men pleaded guilty to charges of illegal entry into the Territory.

The matter entered into a Newton hearing before Senior Magistrate Tamia Richards on Friday, February 28, 2014 after the trial ended in November 2013.

The Crown, represented by Principal Crown Counsel Tiffany R. Scatliffe, is contending that the illicit drug found in possession of the men should be valued at upwards of $600,000; or $100 per gram.

Detective Constable Simon Power of the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force testified that he and other officers found the men in possession of the drugs which were in block form and had a purity of 83 percent.

He further testified that the drugs were not parcelled off for sale and no scales were found on the vessel with the men when they were arrested. Detective Power told the court that the Caribbean is considered a trans-shipment point for cocaine, with production being done in Latin America and the drug being shipped along for sale to the United States of America (US).  

When additives such as baking powder and other substances were included in the mixture, he said, the purity of the drug could be broken down to as little as 20 percent and it was sometimes sold for $20 per gram. This increased the overall value of the drug per kg.

The men were found with a haul consistent with the purity of similar shipments confiscated throughout the Caribbean, Power told the court. He testified that he came to the assumption that the drug would ultimately be valued at $100 per gram. He said the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force only dealt with a standard valuation which saw the street value of the drugs being used to determine the value of confiscated illicit cocaine.

According to Det. Power, an assessment was done and a valuation was arrived at of $100,000 per kg as being the ‘street’ value of the confiscated drugs. He also testified that in its raw, untouched form, the drugs could be sold for a wholesale price of $11,000 - $30,000 per kg in the mainland US.

Defence attorney, Mr Stephen R. Daniels, had a different opinion however, and argued that the drug seized from the defendants should not be taken at its ‘street’/retail value. Instead, he said the court needed to address the value based on the state in which the drug was found, which was in block form, raw and untouched.

Superintendent St Clair Amory also testified during the hearing that drug prices fluctuated when they were mixed with additives. He indicated that it could sometimes be sold for $20, $30 or $40 per gram depending on the scarcity in the market at the time.

Amory noted that cocaine is sold wholesale from $10,000 - $30,000 and has not risen or fluctuated from this range over the years. He noted that the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) can be considered an authority on drugs even in the local jurisdiction and have had influence in the past in ascribing value to illicit drugs in the Virgin Islands.

Scatliffe told the court that local legislation only makes reference to the street value of drugs in sentencing and argued that the RVIPF only looks at the end value of the drugs in arriving at a valuation. She further argued that the defence did not present any evidence to dispute the existing legislation.

Magistrate Richards is expected to make a ruling on the matter on March 28, 2014 at which time the men are also expected to be sentenced. 

4 Responses to “Drug convicts want cocaine value reduced before sentence”

  • qc (02/03/2014, 14:17) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    deport um
  • nightly reader (03/03/2014, 00:59) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    Aryou like fe talk bout deport, when one commit a crime they should bear de punishment, if they get deported most likley they are set free.
  • Reality check (03/03/2014, 07:28) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
    Why would people trade through here to sell it for less?
  • Brother Culture (03/03/2014, 23:19) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    Learning their maths the hard way! Not a very encouraging lesson, hope the youths study this course and remember it well.
    Blessings


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