Bust of a traffic of illegal immigrants in Saint-Martin

Fifteen passengers in an irregular situation were discovered at the beginning of the week on a catamaran in Marigot, reported the detached Saint-Martin prosecutor.

In early September 2016, the new judicial group of the Saint-Martin border police used information on a human smuggling ring, indicated the prosecutor, who opened a preliminary investigation of the chief residence facilitator from an organized gang and assigned it to the border police (PAF).

On September 13, the border police investigators monitored the arrivals of sailboats and inspected a 45-foot recreational catamaran at 3 pm, the Lorena, which was anchored in front of Marigot. On board were fifteen foreigners in an irregular situation, fourteen Cubans (five women and a three-year old child) and a Jamaican. The boat had come from Saint Lucia and was headed toward St Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The boat had stopped in Marigot in order to allow a few of them to disembark and refuel. The catamaran was skippered by Wensley George, a Dominican born in 1984. He was assisted by the young Jamaican, a holder of the Seaman’s book.

Wensley George was placed in custody for three days (procedure for organized crime). As well as the Jamaican. But after 48 hours, the latter was acquitted. The investigation revealed that he was supposed to disembark in Saint-Martin, in an irregular situation. The other passengers were questioned and have been sent back to their country.

All of the hearings have enabled to collect information on an elaborate organization for recruiting Cubans wanting to emigrate to the United States, who first had to go to Saint Lucia, give their passport and pay 6000 dollars and hope to make it to St Thomas. The organization rented sailboats in Martinique and gave the recruited skippers, like Wensley George, an "ad hoc" phone allowing them to have the strictly necessary contacts for taking charge of and transporting passengers.

Wensley George admitted that he has already smuggled around sixty people and earned approximately 800€ per conveyance. He will be judged on Friday September 16 during a summary trial in Basse Terre.

Furthermore, 2 000€ from the traffic were seized from the skipper and the rented sailboat was returned to its owner, in good faith.