Three Nicaraguan crew members who were arrested on a Princess Cruises ship docked at Canada Place last week are being deported under the transnational crime provision of Immigration & Refugee Protection Act. Federal officials alleged they had smuggled Colombian cocaine into Canada while muling drugs for a cartel.
Emil Hebbert Garth, Jason West Carter and Willard Murray Brooks appeared before adjudicator Michael McPhalen at a hearing held in downtown Vancouver Friday morning. An interpreter was on hand, but the three men said they all understood the proceedings and did not dispute the information provided by Mason Cooke, Canada Border Services representative.
Cooke said that after interviewing the trio, they had pieced together a story which started with Murray Brooks being recruited by Colombian cartel, which promised “a lifetime of partying” in case he joined them.
He then drafted West Carter and Hebbert Garth and the three met a man in Cartagena who gave them 10 kg of cocaine and instructions on what to do when arriving in Vancouver. They then allegedly smuggled the cocaine onboard Island Princess when the ship was docked in Cartagena. The drugs were hidden in secret compartments of their clothing and shoes.
According to Cooke, the trio took 5 kilograms of the cocaine to Pacific Centre food court at 11:00 a.m. that day and waited be contacted by a man they didn't know. The man met them, took the three men to his car, and paid them US$30,000 for the drugs. They tucked the cash into their underwear and headed back to the ship at Canada Place.
Officials found the undeclared cash when they went through CBSA screening at the cruise terminal. A search followed, via assistance from Vancouver police canine unit, and they discovered another kilogram of cocaine in the personal quarters of the men.
Princess Cruises says while the departure was late, the overall itinerary was not impacted and the cruise to Alaska continued as planned.
The three men did not dispute the information provided by CBSA staffer. They also said they didn't fear a return to Nicaragua, their home country, where they are expected to be flown within 7 days. CBSA will hold Princess Cruises responsible for the travel costs.
McPhalen said the three were a flight risk and would be detained until flights are arranged. CBSA was seeking the deportation under section 37 (1) (b) of Immigration & Refugee Protection Act, where individuals can be deported for organized criminality.
BC RCMP said that while charges would not be recommended against the men, they were still investigating.