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Venezuelan captain convicted of gun, ammo smuggling

Trinidad Express / A VENEZUELAN boat captain who was charged with attempting to import illegal guns and ammunition was yesterday jailed for 16 months.

Douglas Mendoza was also fined $22,000 for making a false declaration.

The case in which Mendoza said he as guilty, was heard before San Fernando magistrate Kerianne Byer and prosecuted by senior attorney for the Custom and Excise Division Harricharan Kassie.

He told the court that at 6.30 p.m. last April 20, Mendoza was seen by Custom and Excise guard Visham Sonnylal on a vessel at King’s Wharf, San Fernando. Mendoza presented documents for clearance and went to the back of the vessel where he was seen attempting to pass a red and white bag to another man over a chain link wire fence.

Sonnylal called out to Mendoza and the other man to stop and he took the bag. Two guns and five rounds of ammunition were found wrapped in white, short pants. The men were arrested.

Through an interpreter Mendoza, 28, said he was the captain of the boat. He admitted he did not have licences for the guns and ammunition nor was he exempted from holding them.

He was charged by Customs and Excise officer Stacy Superville for importing prohibited goods and making a false declaration.

Through interpreter Moonilal Ragbir yesterday, Mendoza said he was the father of four children between the ages of eight years and two years old. They live in Venezuela.

Kassie said Mendoza had no previous convictions in this county or in his homeland.

He said the guns and ammunition were worth $23,000 and the penalty was $50,000 or trice the value of the goods or eight year in prison.

In passing sentence magistrate Kerri-Anne Byer said she considered Mendoza’s clean record, that he pleaded guilty and that he was in custody since last April.

For importing the gun and ammunition, Mendoza was jailed for 16 months. He was also fined $22,000 for making the false declaration. In default of paying this money in three months, he will serve 16 months in prison.

Trinidadian Jason St Clair who was charged along with Mendoza, maintained his guilty plea.

Kassie objected to bail for him as he said St Clair was a flight risk.

Byer however placed him on 200,000 bail with the conditions that he reports to the police station twice a week and live with his sister. He was ordered to return to court on January 8.

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