HAMILTON, Bermuda (CMC) — A Jamaican cruise ship waiter who the prosecution said masterminded a plot to bring cocaine worth up to almost three-quarters of a million dollars (US) into Bermuda has been jailed for 15 years.
Ricardo Valentine Stewart, 32, from the Jamaican north coast resort town of Ocho Rios, was convicted by a jury last month but he continued to deny any involvement in the drugs operation when he appeared for sentencing on Wednesday, telling Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons that he had been set up.
"I am innocent. I have never tried to break the law. These guys don't like me for some reason," said Stewart.
His lawyer, Marc Daniels, told the court his client would appeal the conviction.
Stewart was at the centre of the smuggling ring that was smashed last June when a bag of drugs was found in a disco on board the cruise liner, Explorer of the Seas, while it was en route to Bermuda.
The jury convicted him of conspiracy to import cocaine. Stewart is the second Jamaican to be convicted for his role in the ring.
Last year, Adrian Morris, a father of two from Golden Grove, St Thomas, Jamaica, who was a cleaner on the ship, admitted his involvement after closed-circuit television footage showed him carrying the bag of drugs around the ship.
Morris, who was jailed last year for six years for his part, gave evidence against Stewart at trial and named him as the ringleader. He said he was offered US$1,500 to move drugs around the ship.
Prosecutors claimed Stewart knew all the "ins and outs" of the operation and did the recruiting. He was said to be the link between the guests and the crew who were involved in the smuggling ring.
According to Kelnile Bushay, 35, another cleaner on the ship, from St Vincent and the Grenadines, Stewart arranged for passengers from the Explorer of the Seas to pick up cocaine in St Maarten.
He alleged that Stewart intended the drugs to be dropped off in Bermuda. Bushay, who was not on trial, said he had participated in moving drugs around the ship himself, and the payment was US$2,000.
Detective Constable Alickson Severin told the court that St Maarten is known as one of the transit points for large quantities of cocaine that emanate from Colombia.
Severin told the court that the cocaine seized from the Explorer of the Seas had an average purity of 47.5 per cent and would net between $424,500 and $735,375 on the streets here.