Does 'gambling ship' case hold water?
Lawyers fight for case to be dropped
Tuesday, February 20, 2007 10:56 AM
MONDAY, FEBRUAY 18: Lawyers for two men charged with importing 100 gambling machines last year have been submitting to the trial magistrate that their clients have no case to answer.
Once Senior Crown Counsel Carrington Mahoney closed the prosecution's case this morning, barrister Kevin Bean addressed the Wor. Khamisi Tokunbo, arguing that the Crown's case isn't strong enough to support the charges and warrant a rebuttal by the defence.
George Kezas, 71, of Lilly Park, St. George's and Fermin Alfonso Reyes, 29, of Panama City, Panama are charged with importing the machines on July 24 aboard the vessel 'Niobe Corinthian', which berthed at Marginal Wharf in St. David's.
Their intermittent trial has heard of a police and customs raid on the vessel and the seizure of the machines, which a prosecution expert has said were manufactured for the sole purpose of gambling.
Mr. Bean's arguments centred on the legal meanings of the words 'importation' and 'gaming machines and parts'; that a search warrant was invalid; that his client, Mr. Kezas, was only an employee of the Corinthian company and didn't cause the vessel to come to Bermuda; that the gaming machines were fixtures of the ship and not goods being imported; and that there was no evidence given that the gambling machines were capable of operation as such.
Earlier, Detective Constable Paul Ridley told the court that he felt sympathy for Sr. Reyes, the vessel's captain, when he told him that he would be in police custody over the full weekend of his arrest.
"Did I feel compassion for him?" the officer said. "Yes, I did. Did I know that his wife was pregnant? Yes, I did. Did I lend him my cell phone? Yes, I did."
It was after using the phone that Sr. Reyes told the officer that his wife had given birth.
Dc Ridley also told the court that he'd offered to guard Sr. Reyes while he showered at Hamilton Police Station.
"Did I feel sympathetic to Capt. Reyes? Yes, I did," he continued. "Did I feel he broke the law nonetheless? Yes, I did."
However, he denied defence lawyer Elizabeth Christopher's suggestion that he'd visited her client in custody to advise him to plead guilty to the charge.
"Absolutely not," he said.
Richard Calderon of the Bermuda Land Development Corporation told the trial that the Corporation had leased a berth at Marginal Wharf to the Niobe Corinthian's owners for six months from July to January.
Unusually, he said, the contract wasn't first signed nor was payment made from the outset.
He agreed with Mr. Bean that payment would be due even if the vessel weren't in port: "Not to sound like a greedy landlord."
The trial continues with further submissions from Ms Christopher of no case to answer.