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Twist in Supreme Court drugs case

Defence lawyer Charles Richardson (File photograph)

An attempt by the prosecution to prove that an alleged drugs mule lied about a trip to Canada backfired in Supreme Court yesterday.

Ranae Furbert, 29, who has denied importation and possession with intent to supply $700,000 worth of cannabis, cannabis resin and shatter after she arrived in Bermuda on a flight from Toronto on January 11, 2018.

Ms Furbert said she had taken an earlier trip to the city in November 2017 with a girlfriend named Stacey Mota.

But Nicole Smith, the prosecutor. produced last-minute evidence of papers which she said showed Ms Furbert’s account of the trip was false.

The document said that there was no record of Ms Mota leaving and returning to the island on the dates in question.

Ms Smith pressed home her point after she called senior Customs officer Paula Ramotar to the stand.

Ms Ramotar confirmed she had been asked by detectives to research the travel history of Ms Mota using the Border Management System – a computer programme shared by Customs and immigration officials and airlines, to keep track of who left and arrived on the island.

She was able to tell the court dates and destinations of several trips Ms Mota made between March and August 2018.

But she said there was no record in the system of Ms Mota taking a flight to Toronto on November 19, 2017 – the date Ms Furbert claimed she and Ms Mota travelled.

There was also no record in the BMS database of Ms Mota’s return to Bermuda on November 26.

Ms Ramotar told Charles Richardson, for the defence, that the computer system was operational on the dates in question.

She at first claimed that the system was always glitch-free and that passport scanning meant that it was never subject to human error.

But when pressed by Mr Richardson, Ms Ramotar accepted that there was a slim chance that a mistake could occur.

She said: “I wouldn’t say it was impossible – perhaps a one per cent chance.”

Mr Richardson showed the official Ms Mota’s passport, opened it to a page, and pointed to a Canadian border entry stamp dated November 19.

A second stamp showed that Ms Mota returned to Bermuda on November 26.

Ms Ramotar confirmed that the stamps were genuine, that they were proof that Ms Mota had travelled to Canada and back on those dates, and that the trip had somehow failed to be recorded by the BMS.

Mr Richardson told her: “Welcome to the one per cent.”

Ms Furbert claimed that she flew to Toronto in January 2018 with her son at the invitation of Justin Clark, a man she had met six months earlier.

She did some shopping during the visit, and said that on her last night in Toronto, Mr Clark gave her three empty suitcases to use for her journey home.

She insisted that she knew nothing about the drugs until she disembarked from the plane at the airport, switched on her phone, and saw a voice note message from a friend of Mr Clark which said that he had concealed packages behind the hard plastic linings in the three pieces of luggage.

The defendant added that she decided not to claim her luggage and passed through Immigration and Customs with just her carry-on bag. She reported the incident to the police on the following day after she talked to a lawyer.

Ms Smith admitted that the evidence against Ms Furbert was circumstantial.

But she told the jury that common sense would lead them to a guilty verdict.

She said that the defendant had all the characteristics of a typical drugs mule – a single mother who was financially vulnerable and “an Academy award-winning actress”.

She added that Ms Furbert had appeared evasive under cross-examination, and that her actions – including a claim that she “accidentally” deleted the voice note from her phone before going to the police – demonstrated that she must have known before she left Canada that her suitcases contained drugs.

But Mr Richardson said the evidence supported his client’s claim that she was a blind drugs mule who knew nothing about the illegal substances until she landed in Bermuda.

He added: “And when she did find out that she was being used, she cut.

“But where is the evidence that she knew? You know that you can’t be sure that she knew.”

The jury is expected to begin its deliberations today.

It is The Royal Gazette’s policy not to allow comments on stories regarding criminal court cases. This is to prevent any statements being published that may jeopardise the outcome of that case.