Police playing ‘hot potato’ with man on $90-m cocaine rap, says Champagnie

DEFENCE attorney Peter Champagnie has accused the police of playing “hot potato” with the health of his client Robert Chin, the man who has been charged in connection with the $90-million cocaine seizure at Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston on Monday.

Champagnie made the accusation during a bail application for Chin on Friday at the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court. He said that 56-year-old Chin suffers from renal failure and needs dialysis treatment every other day. However, while Chin was taken to get treatment on Tuesday, he was not taken on Thursday, the attorney said.

“Half-Way-Tree Police Station, where he’s being kept, is saying it is Narcotics’s [duty to take him for treatment]; Narcotics is saying ‘It is not our responsibility, it is Half-Way-Tree’s,’ ” Champagnie said.

“If he misses today, that is it for him. The situation is grave. I genuinely fear the worst if he remains where he is. This seems to be a case of hot potato — no one wants to take on all that responsibility,” the attorney said, adding that the cost for treatment is US$350 for each session.

According to the prosecution, Chin was not taken for treatment because his family had not paid the facility. However, Champagnie said that Chin’s wife had the money when she visited him on Thursday.

Champagnie also said that Chin has a wound with a “massive” tube that leads to his heart and his neck, which requires constant sanitisation.

“It [the wound] is in a nasty state,” Champagnie told the judge, as he explained that the wound had not been treated properly since Chin’s arrest.

Champagnie also said that Chin is on a strict diet which requires that he avoid salt, sugar, or any meat, and had not eaten since Thursday.

“The family members were concerned about the fact that he missed dialysis yesterday [Thursday]. I went there just in time to see his wife; she came with some fruits. She was told quite bluntly that this is not what is given to prisoners,” he said, adding that the police eventually allowed her to give him the food after he explained that Chin is on a special diet. “I fear that if it is that he remains in custody he is at great peril in terms of his very life,” Champagnie argued.

The prosecution opposed bail on the grounds that Chin is considered a flight risk. Additionally, the court was told that the Horizon Remand Centre in St Andrew has agreed to take Chin and ensure that his medical needs are met.

But Champagnie rejected that offer, saying, “I don’t know of any dialysis unit at Horizon. God forbid he goes and the police are not in a position to transport him. It’s easy to say, ‘Carry him at Horizon,’ but my friend [the clerk of court] is not in the private practice to know that when you go there at Horizon, the family members have to take at least a week to register and to get their ticket… It takes over an hour to see your client when you go as an attorney, and the registration process is as if you are applying for a passport [for] the persons who are authorised to visit.”

Champagnie said the court can impose “stringent conditions” such as house arrest, and having his client’s travel documents surrendered, once bail is granted.

In response, Parish Judge Maxine Dennis-McPherson said, “I have to consider whether Mr Chin will get the care he needs. I must say that I am disturbed in relation to what I heard happened yesterday… I was told that he had an appointment…That is most unfortunate. It takes a moment for a life to pass. Anyone of us could’ve been in that position and you are not allowed to seek treatment. I am prepared to grant bail to Mr Chin on humanitarian grounds.”

With that she granted Chin $700,000 bail, ordered that he report to the nearest police station every day and surrender all his travel documents, and placed a stop order on him.

Chin was also ordered not to contact any Crown witnesses and is now subjected to a nightly curfew.

He is to return to court on February 10 to allow for the completion of his case file as no statement was on the file when the case was mentioned on Friday.

Police have reported that Chin, who is the half-brother of People’s National Party Vice-President Mikael Phillips, was attempting to board a departing flight to the United States of America around 7:00 am on Monday when anomalies were detected in a suitcase assigned to him. A search of the luggage was conducted and the illicit drug, with an estimated street value of US$600,000 (approximately $90,603,000) was found.

Police said he managed to evade them but was later arrested about 6:30 pm the same day.

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