Four men, including a Sri Lankan, who were involved in a human smuggling operation that ended in disaster off Tortola’s coast in January, were given prison sentences ranging from six to thirty months, on Monday by a Dutch court. Another Sri Lankan was acquitted.
The four convicts were involved in a shipment of Haitians and Sri Lankans from Simpson Bay to the U.S. Virgin Islands. The boat Ajada, which was used in the voyage, capsized after hitting a reef off the British Virgin Islands on January 20. A passing fishing boat rescued 13 migrants, while five men, two women and three children are still missing.
Judge Monique Keppels, who had presided over the August 25 and 31 court hearings, sentenced main suspect Sribaskaran Sivanantham (45) to three years. She stated in her written verdict that she considered it proven the Sri Lankan had arranged transport of seven compatriots from Sri Lanka to St. Thomas via St. Maarten.
Sivanantham had told Court that when he was in St. Maarten he was there “to help people.” He said his price was around US $32,000 per person. From this fact, the court derived that he had not acted only for humanitarian reasons, but had tried to make a profit. He was sentenced to three years, six months of which were suspended, with two years’ probation. Prosecutor Manon Ridderbeks had asked for seven years.
Sri Lankan Gunanayagam Thurainayagam (35) was acquitted because the judge did not consider it proven that he also had acted to make a profit. The court considered it proven that he had only paid Canadian $40,000 to have his brother transported from Sri Lanka to Canada. The Prosecutor had asked for 30 months.
Terrence Williams (46) of St. Kitts and Nevis was sentenced to 34 months, six of which were suspended, with two years’ probation, for having repaired the boat that was used in the operation. The court also found it proven that he had received some US $10,000 from a co-suspect for the transport of five Lankans. Williams’ sentence was considerably lower than Ridderbek’s demand of 54 months, also because he received a two-month reduction of his sentence for having spent too long in police detention.
Olnard Jaquet (53), for whom the prosecutor had requested 24 months, received 13 months, five of which were suspended, with two years’ probation. The judge found it proven that he had been the liaison with the passengers, who received temporary shelter in his house. He had denied his involvement, but several survivors of the ill-fated voyage had told police that they had paid US $1,500 for their passage to St. Thomas. These payments had taken place in Jaquet’s house in Cole Bay. (The Daily Herald)