$11M paid but poachers still in custody
The 59 fishermen from the Dominican Republic who were fined a total of $11 million after pleading guilty to various breaches of Jamaica's Fishing Industry Act could leave the island today, following payment of the fine yesterday.
Despite payment of the hefty fine, the men were still in custody up to press time when Superintendent Carl Ferguson of the marine police shared that he was yet to receive the requisite commitment form that would allow the division to officially release the foreigners.
"I have not seen any documents to validate that (the payment)," Ferguson said.
The Gleaner was advised that the total fine had been paid but that the fishermen could not be released until the marine police had proof of payment in hand.
This was confirmed by Commander Paul Wright, chief executive officer of the Fisheries Division in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries.
"No commitment form, no release. Even if the money is paid," Wright explained.
The men were sentenced on Monday, April 10 when they pleaded guilty and the captain fined $2.5 million, two deputies ordered to pay $750,000 each, and the other 56 crewmen each charged $125,000. Failure to pay the fines would have seen them spending between 10 and 30 days in prison. Even though local authorities were advised by the Dominican Republic government from last week of its intention to pay, the closure of financial institutions over the long Easter weekend meant that nothing could be done to advance the transaction until yesterday.
Meanwhile, checks with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade about the status of the foreigners and their case proved futile, as after promising to provide an update if questions were sent via email, the public relations and media affairs unit admitted that it was clueless about the matter.
"Apologies for the delay in my response. The marine police would be better able to provide you with an update, as they are treating with the matter," Danille Gordon said in an email to the newspaper.