By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
IMMIGRATION officials believe they have uncovered an elaborate human smuggling scheme in Grand Bahama involving 12 African nationals.
Immigration officer Napthali Cooper reported ten men and two women from Africa were taken into custody on Thursday morning for overstaying their visitor status.
He reported that the nationals departed Lagos on May 2, flying to Istanbul, then onto Cuba, and finally arriving in Nassau on May 4 where they were landed for three days.
According to Mr Cooper, the group purported to have travelled to The Bahamas as "crew members" with the expressed intention of joining the vessel Deepwater Asgard in Freeport, Grand Bahama.
Elnet Maritime Agency Ltd was selected to have been the local agent facilitating the transaction.
However, Mr Cooper said the 12 crew members never showed up in Freeport on May 3, as scheduled, and failed to contact the local shipping agency.
He said they discovered that the ship did not arrive as was anticipated by Elnet Maritime.
Mr Cooper stated that immigration officers acting on information received proceeded to No 17 Riviera Towers in the Lucaya area where five African nationals were taken into custody after their passports revealed that they had overstayed their time.
Acting on further information received, immigration officers also went to an apartment in Holmes Rock where seven more African nationals were taken into custody for overstaying.
The 12 persons were taken to Immigration Headquarters for processing.
Mr Cooper said that it is believed the group was involved in an elaborate scheme to be smuggled into the United States.
"The 12 Africans were posing as crew members and travelled all the way from Cameroon and Nigeria to The Bahamas to be smuggled into the US," he said.
The group was expected to be charged in court on Friday.