Jamaica’s police chief explains “surprise” release of men held after massive cocaine bust
KINGSTON, Jamaica – Jamaica’s top cop has sought to allay public concerns about the release of four men who were arrested following the second biggest cocaine seizure in the island’s history.
Commissioner Dr. Carl Williams says the four men were allowed to go free because they weren’t the same men who were on a boat when it was intercepted with close to 800 kilogrammes of cocaine, even though a statement issued by police after the drug bust suggested that.
“A mistake was made by our communications arm to say that the men who jumped off the boat were the same four men who were held,” he explained at the Jamaica Observer Press Club yesterday.
Police seized the nearly J$1 billion (US$7.5 million) in cocaine early Saturday morning, in waters off Belmont in the western parish of Westmoreland.
A release from the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s Corporate Communications Unit (CCU) had stated that “four men, who were observed abandoning the vessel and running off in different directions, were pursued and taken into custody”.
However, the actual incident report stated: “On the approach of security personnel to the vessel, men aboard the vessel abandoned it and ran in different directions. Four men were subsequently held.”
In a statement issued yesterday after it was reported that the four men were released, the CCU said the four were duly processed, but released after investigators were reasonably satisfied that there was no evidence linking them to the seizure.
Commissioner Williams subsequently confirmed that decision.
“After two or so days of interviews and interrogation the police were satisfied that these were not the men who jumped off the boat,” he said.
“I understand why the public might be asking questions, because if the subsequent report said that four men jumped off the boat and were held, then they are within their right to ask questions, but they were not the same four men. It was an error on the part of the persons who released the second report,” the police chief reiterated.
Last Saturday’s cocaine seizure came second only to one in 2002, when lawmen seized approximately 1,227 kilogrammes of the drug, also in the Belmont area.
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