[Updated] A Latvian sailor who was convicted of possessing almost $50 million worth of cocaine, a gun and ammunition was sentenced to 25 years in prison today [June 12]. In addition, Janis Zegelis’ sailboat “Arturs” was confiscated by the Court.
File photo of Mr Zegelis leaving Court:
Judge Carlisle Greaves said he took into account the fact that the drugs were not destined for Bermuda, however at the same time wanted to send a message that Bermuda is not the place to be caught with illegal drugs, or the place to sell drugs.
Before being sentenced, the defendant apologized to the Court, and asked for leniency saying he wanted to be able to see his three young children again.
Mr Zegelis leaving Court after being sentenced today:
29-year-old Janis Zegelis sailed to Bermuda from Trinidad arriving in July 2011, and was arrested on August 1, after Customs officials searched his boat while it was docked in the St George’s area. At that time, police were seen to be searching the boat for hours, before guarding it overnight and eventually removing the boat from the water.
Police guarding Mr Zegelis’ boat “Arturs” last year:
During the trial, Mr Zegelis said he was paid to sail the boat from Trinidad to Latvia by a Russian man, and had not intended to come to Bermuda however diverted to the island after experiencing problems with his sailboat.
He also claimed he had no prior knowledge of the drugs, having discovered the cocaine in a compartment on the boat after a few days at sea. He did admit to having knowledge of the gun, saying he needed it for protection against pirates.
Photo of the cocaine:
He was in possession of 165kg [363lbs] of cocaine valued at $48 million — one of the largest drug seizures in Bermuda’s history — and a 9mm Beretta, 192 rounds of ammunition and two extended magazines.
The time Mr Zegelis has already spent in custody will be counted towards the sentence, and the judge suggested he may end up being paroled and deported after serving a third of his sentence [8.3 years].
Update 7.23pm: Acting Superintendent Sean Field-Lament said, “The Bermuda Police Service welcomes the Supreme Court’s ruling and sentencing in the Zegelis case, which will hopefully send a strong message and act as a deterrent.
“This successful outcome underscores the ongoing partnership between law enforcement agencies both locally and overseas to combat illicit drug activity.
“We would also like to acknowledge the hard work of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions that diligently brought this matter to a conclusion.”
- Court: $48 Million Cocaine Trial Continues
- Defendant Had Gun To ‘Protect Himself’
- Latvian Sailor: $48 Million Cocaine Charge
- Latvian Denies Gun & Drug Charges
- Latvian Sailor Guilty: $48 Million Cocaine Charge
- Latvian Sailor Faces Gun & Ammo Charges