Mar 10, 2015 News
After being incarcerated for over a year, the exporter behind a major drug bust was found guilty of trying to smuggle boulangers stuffed with cocaine out of the country, when she made an appearance at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court yesterday.
Basmati Persaud, called ‘Lolita’ of 460 Grass Field, Lusignan, East Coast Demerara (ECD) had appeared before Magistrate Judy Latchman.
Persaud was convicted for trafficking 12.330KG of cocaine on November 30, 2013 at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA), Timehri.
The mother of three was ordered to pay a fine of $11,097,000, which is the street value of the cocaine she attempted to traffic and serve 56 months’ imprisonment.
The magistrate, before handing down her sentencing, informed the defendant that she disbelieved her when she told the court she was unaware that the cocaine was in the boulanger. She believed that the defendant and the driver packed the boxes. She further revealed that the defendant had every opportunity to discover that the cocaine was in the Boulanger.
Magistrate Judy Latchman added that she believed the woman had physical contact with 12.330KG of cocaine; and that she intended to export the illicit drug to Canada.
At yesterday’s hearing, Persaud, who declined to call witnesses, chose to gave a sworn testimony. She took to the witness box and testified that she had nothing to do with the shipping of the cocaine.
She explained that her former lover, Nazeer Gafoor, was the exporter. Persaud stated that she once worked at a fisheries outlet but left to go work with her lover at T&R Seafoods, because the money she was working for at the fisheries was not sufficient for her to support her three children.
Persaud claimed that she was “set up” by her lover and his friend.
Persaud admitted to the court that she indeed collected the box containing the vegetables, but that she was not in charge of it.
Police Prosecutor Stephen Telford suggested to the woman that she was hired by the men to ship the cocaine, but she quickly refuted his statement. The prosecutor further told the woman that she knew the cocaine was inside of the box.
Persaud then argued that if she knew the drug was inside the box she would have never agreed to carry the items to the airport.
After Persaud was found guilty, Telford asked the magistrate to take into consideration the prevalence and means persons use to continue their drug trade when sentencing Persaud.
He said that the woman should be given a sentencing that would send a strong message to potential drug traffickers.
Before handing down her sentencing, the magistrate considered all the mitigating factors, the quantity of cocaine involved and the method used to traffic the drug.
When asked by the magistrate if she had anything to say after hearing the verdict, Persaud replied, “I swear on my life, I didn’t know the cocaine was in the boulanger. I am a very hardworking woman; I don’t go out, smoke or drink.”
Persaud appeared before Chief Magistrate Priya Sewnarine-Beharry on December 9, 2013 and denied the allegations of the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU) branch which claimed that on November 30, 2013, she had in her possession 12.330 kilograms of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking.
On the woman’s first court appearance, CANU prosecutor, Oswald Massiah, said that for some time the accused, who resides at 460 Grass Field, Lusignan, East Coast Demerara, has been engaged in shipping vegetables and fruits to Canada.
Massiah said that Persaud had used a particular licensed exporter to conduct her shipping business but after a while the arrangement ceased due to the fact that the shipper experienced financial difficulties and was off for some while.
The defendant allegedly restarted her business and contacted the man, only to be informed that that he was experiencing financial difficulty. However, according to Massiah, the defendant rendered financial assistance so that he could have regained his shipping licence.
The Prosecutor claimed that the business thereafter recommenced and it was during November that the defendant arranged for the shipper to assist her in acquiring a quantity of vegetables to ship to Canada.
Persaud allegedly charged the man to purchase squash and some other vegetables from the Bourda Market while she would have acquired a quantity from markets in Berbice and on the East Coast of Demerara.
Massiah specified that it was Persaud who purchased the boulanger. He said that it was the shipper who would normally transport the items to the airport but on this occasion she insisted that they transported the vegetables separately.
Massiah stated that on November 30, in keeping with the arrangement previously made, the shipper met with Persaud at the airport and they assembled the vegetables to undergo the required pre-shipping process.
CANU ranks checked the vegetables and upon checking the head of the first boulanger ‘fell off’, which raised the ranks’ suspicions.
Further checks revealed that the pulp of the vegetables was replaced with a transparent plastic bag which contained a substance suspected to be cocaine. Persaud only turned herself in after a series of wanted bulletins were issued for her arrest.
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