By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
TWO Colombian men were denied bail and remanded to prison yesterday after they were arraigned for their alleged involvement in a $600,000 cocaine smuggling plot.
Leonardo Velez-Escorcia, 33, and Miguel Pineda-Gonzalez, 30, stood before Magistrate Constance Delancy facing a count each of conspiracy to possess dangerous drugs with intent to supply and conspiracy to import dangerous drugs.
It is alleged that the crimes were committed between September 17 and 25.
On September 25, Bahamian and US law enforcement officials, inclusive of the Royal Bahamas Police Force, Defence Force, Bahamas Customs Department, and US counterparts, acted on information and conducted a search of the vessel anchored off Pinder’s Point.
According to initial police reports, during a search a large quantity of suspected cocaine worth $625,000 was found on board. Two men were taken into custody.
Both men pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Their lawyer, Carlson Shurland, told the magistrate that the charges against his clients warranted bail, given that they were not on the restricted list in the 2011 Amended Bail Act.
“They’re Colombians no?” the magistrate asked.
Mr Shurland said they were, but noted that their nationality should not restrict them from being considered for bail.
Magistrate Delancy said she had to consider whether they would return for trial, as that was one of many considerations under the Bail Act.
Mr Shurland, however, said their presumption of innocence trumps any other factors for consideration.
“The evidence, as I understand it, is weak,” the lawyer added.
Magistrate Delancy said that was not an issue for her court to determine.
“There’s no evidence that they will abscond or interfere with witnesses,” Mr Shurland stressed.
He added that his clients were prepared to accept cash bail if necessary.
Police prosecutor Supt Ercell Dorsett, when asked to respond, said the only objection he could register is that “they may not return for trial.”
“If they are granted bail, however, I’d recommend cash bail in a substantial amount with at least $100,000 each if the court sees fit,” the police prosecutor added.
“I’ve considered your arguments as well as guidelines set out in the Bail Act. One of those guidelines is the seriousness of the offence, which may be an incentive for absconding. Bail is denied and the defendants are hereby advised of their right to appeal my decision to the Supreme Court,” Magistrate Delancy ruled.
Velez-Escorcia and Pineda-Gonzalez will stand trial on December 9 before Chief Magistrate Andrew Forbes.
They were remanded to the Department of Correctional Services.