Latvian loses appeal after cocaine conviction
A Latvian man found guilty of importing $48 million worth of cocaine, a gun and 192 bullets on his yacht has lost an appeal against conviction.
Janis Zegelis, 30, was sentenced to 25 years in prison after a search of his yacht, the 38-foot sloop Arturs, revealed the contraband hidden on the boat.
He had been sailing solo from Trinidad to Latvia with the drugs on board but diverted to Bermuda after the boat was damaged in a tropical storm.
Prosecutors say he was smuggling the drugs to raise money for his family, who were struggling financially in his impoverished home country in Northern Europe, but Zegelis told the jury he was the victim of a plot by a Russian man who hired him to deliver the boat.
He said the man hid the drugs and gun below deck and was too scared to dump the drugs or tell the authorities because the Russian, who he refused to name, threatened to kill him and his family.
Zegelis was found guilty by unanimous verdict but subsequently launched an appeal against conviction, arguing that Puisne Judge Carlisle Greaves had misdirected the jury in relation to the defence of duress, and should have provided the jury with copies of the relevant sections of the law.
However, in a judgement issued yesterday, the Court of Appeals rejected the grounds, finding that Mr Justice Greaves clearly directed the jury on the potential defences.
“The contention that the judge was wrong to refuse the jury's request to have copies of the sections must also be rejected,” the ruling stated.
“The judge told them his reason. These were that it was his duty to explain the law to them, and theirs to accept his directions including the meaning and effect of the statutory provisions. It is not for the jury to read and interpret the statutory provisions as they may think fit.”
Zegelis had also launched several other grounds of appeal, including constitutional violations, errors of procedure and aspects of the introduction of DNA at the trial, but the court dismissed each of them.
There was no appeal against the sentence.