The government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines has sought the assistance of a “foreign agency” to investigate the tampering of evidence at the Narcotic Base in Arnos Vale, from which at least one package of cocaine has gone missing.
Station Sergeant of Police Catherine Robinson, who is second in command of the Narcotics Unit, made the disclosure in court on Tuesday as she was being cross examined during a drug possession and trafficking case.
In her examination-in-chief, Robinson told the court that on May 26, 2017, she along with head of the Narcotics Units, Assistant Superintendent of Police, Foster Scott, Sergeant 537 Williams, Corporal 351 Edwards, and Police Constable 293 Francis noticed that the exhibits in the exhibit room had been tampered with.
She said that an investigation is being carried out into the matter and the assistance of a “foreign agency” has been obtained.
Robinson, who has been a narcotics officer for 25 years, was giving testimony in the case in which Harvey Benjamin and Vincent Denbar, both of Union Island, are being tried on a charge of possession of 9,159 grammes (20.2lbs) of cocaine with intent to supply.
They are each facing two counts of drug trafficking, stemming from a police and Coast Guard operation off West Key, Bequia on July 3, 2014.
The issue of the missing evidence first emerged in court when Director of Public Prosecution, Colin Williams, informed the court at the commencement of the trial that one of the eight packages of cocaine related to the matter was missing.
During cross-examination by defence counsel Ronald “Ronny” Marks, Robinson said that the cocaine was in eight packages, four of them black and four in transparent bags.
She said four of the wrapped packages were in a larger white plastic bag, while four others were in a blue plastic bag.
However, according to the senior police officer’s deposition, she had told the magistrate court during the preliminary inquiry that cocaine was in black packages.
When questioned during Tuesday’s trial, she agreed that her statement did not mention any transparent plastic bags.
Questioned on the events of May 26, 2017 — when the tampering of evidence was unearthed — Robinson told the court that it is customary for officers to check on the exhibits or to enter the room if they want to place or remove an exhibit.
The judge, Justice Brian Cottle, then interceded, telling the witnesses that the court understands that it is normal for police officers to access the exhibit room for these reasons.
He said the court was trying to determine if there was a particular reason for she and the other officers to enter the exhibit room on that day.
She said she and the other officers went to the exhibit room “because exhibits were being tampered with and that was the reason for going in there to check on exhibits,”
Asked in what condition was the exhibit for the current case, Robinson said they had been tampered with.
She said the sack was originally tied with a piece of rope, but it was met untied and when officers checked, there were only seven packages — rather than eight — in the two plastic bags.
The jury asked Robinson if surveillance cameras are installed in the exhibit room and she said no.
The arresting officer, Corporal Simon of the Rapid Response Unit also testified on Tuesday.
The revelations in court give credence to reports that surfaced earlier this year about cocaine being missing from the Narcotic Base.
The police or national security officials have not commented on the development.
The trial continues today (Wednesday).