Opinion: It’s all about drugs – and power

POSTED: 11/28/13 12:25 PM

How do you even begin to describe a trial that involves a gang whose members committed at least six murders, attempted to kill a couple of others and made drugs, weapons and violence their everyday business?

How is it possible to understand that all this happened under the leadership of a man who proudly announced in court once that he has an MBA in business administration? And how is it possible that the seven defendants in this Vesuvius-case – in the face of a mountain of evidence – claim with a straight face that they had nothing to do with anything?

Most of the defendants refused to answer any questions from the court during the appeals hearing that began on Tuesday. That is, we’d say, not the attitude of innocent men. However, defendants do have the right to remain silence so there is not much the court can do about it. Suspects that talked – like Andrew Davis and Charles Fleming – have been thrown out of the group and Davis was even attacked in prison.

At the bottom of all this is money and an insatiable hunger for power. While the prosecution has not charged any of the defendants for drug dealing, it did mention that the drugs trade was at the source of everything evil that happened in 2011.

It started with the alleged theft of ten kilos of cocaine by Amador Jones. In March or April 2011, he ripped the coke from a transport at the airport. The drugs belonged to Miguel Arrindell, leader of a competing gang.

Arrindell could get his drugs back if he paid, what former prosecutor Bart den Hartigh once called, “a criminal tax.” Instead of paying, Arrindell asked Eric Lake to find him a hit man. Omax Bye came from St. Kitts to do the dirty work – reportedly for a $20,000 fee that was never paid in full – that got the war between the two gangs really going: on April 16, 2011, he shot coke-thief Amador Jones at the Under the Sun car wash on L.B. Scott Road.

The prosecution has linked Omar Jones to a drugs transport from St. Maarten to the US Virgin Islands on July 28, 2011. On November 11, of the same year the Conair III, a boat belonging to Jones, was intercepted in St. Thomas carrying 321 kilos of cocaine.

Anthony White was a captain on one of Jones’ boats. He was killed in Dutch Quarter for the same reason the gang went after Eric Lake: they were suspected of stealing drugs  from the group.

One anonymous witness told the police what the violence was all about: “It is all about the drugs route and about who has the most powerful gang in St. Maarten. Omar and his gang want to eliminate the competition so that they are the only ones with the drugs route and so that they have the control over the drugs that flow in and out of St. Maarten. In the end, it is all about power.”

We all know what happened after Amador Jones, who led that gang together with his brother Omar, was killed. First, Omar Jones went after Omax Bye. It took only four days to find the alleged killer of Amador Jones. Bye survived the shooting on April 20 and got away. Then Miguel Arrindell was murdered on May 25, 2011 – one day before he had to appear in court as a suspect in the doomed Snowflake-case –a large-scale drugs investigation. On July 7, his brother Rodolfo fell to bullets fired by Jones and Richardson. On August 17, Eric Lake and Kevin Gumbs followed the first two victims to their graves.

The killings of Anthony White and Sheldon Thomas also fit in with the bloody consequences of the drugs war.

With the Jones gang safely behind bars – at least for the time being – St. Maarten has become a lot quieter, though this does not mean that crime has gone to sleep entirely. We only have to refer to the gruesome murder of Thelma and Michael King in September of last year, to yesterday shooting of Dr. Randall Friday, or to the awful drugs-related murder of Gaston Ambroise Gumbs to realize that indeed – as Justice Minister Dennis Richardson pointed out this week – St. Maarten will never be crime free.

That is a sobering but also a realistic observation. Maybe the drug wars will one day inspire politicians to reconsider the criminalization of drugs. After all, profits in this market are huge – and therefore attractive as a criminal activity – because the product is illegal. The debate about legalizing drugs – not just marijuana but also the hard stuff like cocaine – is gaining momentum, but it is a long way from drawing to its conclusion. So for the foreseeable future, cocaine will remain illegal, profits will attract people with a criminal mind like flies to horseshit, and more people will lose their lives because of it.


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