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Bermudians named as US seizes huge drugs haul

The US Coast Guard ship Farallon, whose crew boarded a Bermuda-registered sailboat with cannabis on board.

The US Drug Drug Enforcement Agency alleges Bermudians Shawn Antoine Simmons, Antoine Wenfield Eugene Russel and Raymont Steven Bernard Francis were found with 700lbs of marijuana in international waters.In an affidavit US Special Agent Roxana Pulido said the Bermudians were taken into custody on December 12 after their 34ft sailboat Phantasea was intercepted in the Caribbean region.Ms Pulido said the men claimed the US Drug Enforcement Agency and US Coast Guard officials could not board their boat and later asked if the marijuana on their boat was any good.In a written affidavit, Ms Pulido, who works for the Drug Enforcement Agency, stated she came across the Bermuda-registered boat on December 12 in international waters in the Caribbean region.The US Coast Guard cutter Dauntless first shone lights aboard the sailboat.Officers called out in Spanish and English but received no response Phantasea then attempted to change course.The US Coast Guard then contacted Bermuda's Governor, Sir Richard Gozney, and requested permission to board the vessel.“Upon receiving authorisation from the Bermuda authorities and Government to board and search SV Phantasea, United States Coast Guard cutter Farallon arrived and relieved the Dauntless,” Ms Pulido stated.“Farallon proceeds to board the SV Phantasea, but the captain refused to be boarded and claimed the US did not have authority to board the vessel.”Mr Simmons, who was the captain of the vessel, was then shown documents authorising the US to board.Ms Pulido said: “The Farallon boarding team located, in plain view, a total of 16 bales of marijuana and one brick of what appeared to be hashish inside the vessel.“US Coast Guard officers conducted a field test of the contraband which resulted positive for the presence of marijuana.“The 16 bales of marijuana weighed 219.8 kilograms (703lbs).“While performing the Narcotics Identification Kit field test Shawn Antoine Simmons and Antoine Wenfield Eugene Russel asked if ‘it was good weed'.”She added that Mr Simmons asked what would happen to his crew and was told it was up to the Government of Bermuda.It is estimated that the drugs have a street value about about $13 million in Bermuda.The affidavit added that the US took the three men into custody and asked Bermuda's Government to waive jurisdiction over the Bermudians and the vessel.“The Bermuda Government deferred the request to the United Kingdom Government,” she stated. “On December 21, the United Kingdom Government waived jurisdiction of the vessel to the United States and to the enforcement of United States laws.”According to an official at the Bermuda Maritime Operations Centre, the vessel left Bermuda on November 13. It was the first time the ship had registered it was leaving Bermuda waters.The officer added that if a ship is in international waters people wanting to board it against the captain's will must seek the flagged country's permission. If the ship is in a country's territorial waters however, no permission is needed.