A 44-year-old man and his relatives cried at the High Court in Kingstown on Wednesday after a nine-member jury of six males and three females found him guilty of possession of 32,795 grammes (72.3lbs) of cocaine, and one count of drug trafficking.
With the convictions, Anthony “Ipa” Edwards of Petit Bordel faces the prospect of a maximum sentence of life imprisonment for the drug possession charge.
He could also be imprisoned for up to 25 years and fined up to EC$5 million on the drug trafficking charge.
Edwards has been remanded in prison until Jan. 29, 2018 for sentencing.
The time will allow defence counsel, Grant Connell, to prepare his mitigation, for the Social Welfare Department to produce a social inquiry report, and for the Financial Intelligence Unit to complete its investigations into Edwards’ assets.
The jury took just under two hours to reach their guilty verdict, one day after the prosecution and defence closed their cases.
On Tuesday, Connell made then withdrew an application to visit the scene of the crime, located in Wallibou, on the slopes of the La Soufriere volcano.
The prosecution’s case was that on Jan. 12, 2015, acting on information, officers from the Narcotics Unit, based at Arnos Vale, went to Richmond — 27 miles away — then walked to Wallibou, where they camouflaged themselves in the vegetation there.
After waiting for some time, they saw Edwards going up the mountain.
He returned around 6 p.m. with a sack on his head, which the police found to contain 29 parcels of cocaine.
The drugs had a “star” logo, said to be the mark of the cartel that produced it.
The leader of the operation was head of the Narcotics Unit, Assistant Superintendent of Police Scott, who is one of Edwards’ cousins.
The court heard that it was Scott who had identified himself to Edwards when he was intercepted.
The prosecution witnesses told the court that when Edwards saw the police officers, he dropped the sack and ran.
Police then discharged some warning shots, pursued the man and quickly apprehended him.
When apprehended, the man told police, “Is ah job me get. Ah was holding it for someone.”
The prosecution found itself in somewhat of a little tangle when one of its witnesses, retired Corporal of Police Fitzborne Chambers had said that the man with the sack was bareback, while ASP Scott said that he was wearing an orange t-shirt, an inconsistency that the defence attempted to exploit.
In presenting his case, Edwards told the court that he was returning from the mountain where he has five sheep and five goats, one of which had three kids.
He said he had nothing with him and had been walking for about 30 minutes at a distance behind a man who was bareback.
But during cross-examination, Edwards told the court that the sack that was tendered in evidence was not the one that the police had caught him with.
He said that while making his way down the mountain, he heard gunshots, he got scared, ran and hid for about 30 minutes, then was nabbed by the police after coming out of hiding.
“Why would you run in the direction you hear gunshots,” Connell said in his closing arguments, even as he said Vincentians run from rain but run towards a fire.
Edwards broke down in tears as he spoke with two of his sons and some of his sisters separately as he was waiting to be taken to prison after the conviction.