PJ police issued a photograph of the catamaran after it had been towed to Ponta Delgado port
PJ police issued a photograph of the catamaran after it had been towed to Ponta Delgado port

No charges for Dutch crew found ‘slam dunk’ on catamaran with ton of cocaine

Judge accepts “overwhelming majority of evidence” improperly obtained

Two Dutch crewmembers, held in jail since last August after being found in charge of a catamaran laden with cocaine, walked free from a court in Azores yesterday after the investigating judge decided not to prosecute.

According to a press release issued by the court the judge accepted  that “the overwhelming majority of the evidence was obtained without the necessary and indispensable authorisation of the Polish state (under whose flag the catamaran was sailing) to take the measures provided for under the United Nations Convention against illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances”.

Poland had not responded to a request for authorisation to board the vessel by Portuguese Judicial Police, who did so anyway which “constituted interference in that State’s sovereignty”, according to the judge, who equally considered Portuguese authorities acted outside “any alternative legal norm, namely the right of visit provided for in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea”.

Thus the heavy charges of aggravated drug trafficking and membership of a criminal group fell by the wayside, and the two men, aged 33 and 61, were released from custody.

Reports do not specify whether they have been reunited with the catamaran. But the significant quantity of cocaine discovered on it has all been destroyed.

The ‘order not to prosecute’ is now subject to appeal by the Public Prosecutor, but it is more than likely that the men will be putting a healthy distance between themselves and Portugal in the meantime.

As reports recall, they were detained on the high seas near the Azores on August 8 last year, and their vessel towed into the port of Ponta Delgada, “where it was subjected to searches, eventually being detected in its structure, several hidden compartments inside of which were found 1,047 packages of cocaine with a weight of approximately 1,150 kilos”.

The two men were held “in flagrante delicto” for the crime of illegal drug trafficking, suspected of being part of a transnational criminal organisation dedicated to bringing this type of drug to the European continent”, said a statement at the time released by the PJ.

Tracking of the vessel came under an joint Operation dubbed Calypso, supported by the Portuguese Navy, Air Force, Maritime Police, as well as French and Dutch authorities and the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre – Narcotics.

Source material: LUSA