By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
A Bahamian boat captain and eight Chinese nationals rescued after a boat capsized in waters off Grand Bahama were arraigned in the Freeport Magistrate’s Court last week.
Lucner Laurent, 46, of Abaco, and the immigrants appeared in court before Deputy Chief Magistrate Debbye Ferguson on Tuesday.
The Chinese nationals - six men and two women - pleaded guilty to overstaying their time in The Bahamas. Meanwhile, Laurent was charged with eight counts of assisting in illegal embarkation.
They all pleaded guilty to the charges and were convicted. The immigrants were each fined $1,000 and in default will serve six months at the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services.
Laurent, who was represented by attorney Osman Johnson, was ordered to pay $8,000 or in default, serve six months for each count, totalling four years imprisonment.
According to initial reports, Laurent and the immigrants were spotted hanging on the bottom of the capsized vessel some 17 miles southwest of Grand Bahama when a tanker ship spotted them early in the morning on December 31.
At the time, Laurent claimed they had left Bimini for Grand Bahama when the boat developed engine problems and began taking on water and eventually capsized.
The crew handed them over to the Royal Bahamas Defence Force which later turned them over to the Bahamas immigration authorities in Grand Bahama.