Grenada police believe that they have stumbled on a South American syndicate as they continue to investigate the murder of a Venezuelan national last week on Lowther’s Lane in St. George’s.
A Cuban and a Venezuelan National have been charged for the murder of another Spanish-speaking individual, Jinardo Jose Martinez Rojas from Venezuela.
Charged with murder are Gabriel Pestana who is from Venezuela, and Cuban Arturo Plutin Rodriquez.
They are jointly charged with the offense of non-capital murder in connection with the death of Rojas.
A police release said that the body of the 28-year old man was discovered sometime in the “wee hours” last Saturday at Lowther’s Lane.
A post-mortem revealed that Rojas died as a result of extensive skull fracture.
His body was discovered days after Police were on the look out for him in connection with a scam at a local commercial bank in the city.
Well-placed sources told THE NEW TODAY that the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) had arrested Rojas’ wife for defrauding the bank of US$38, 000.00.
According to a source, the Venezuelan woman, now on remand at the Richmond Hill prison on a charge of embezzlement, had came into the country with false documents and used one of them to impersonate a wealthy account holder at the bank.
“The woman went into the bank on the pretext that she was this account holder and got away with US$38, 000.00. She came back a few days later to take out more from the account when the bank got suspicious and called in the police (FIU)”, he said.
The official stated that the Venezuelan woman was nabbed but her male companion who was with her managed to evade the officers and fled from the scene.
There are reports that the couple were staying at a rented apartment in the Calliste area in the south of the island.
The FIU officers conducted a search of the building and discovered approximately EC$13, 000.00 in cash but Rojas was not found.
Instructions were given to Immigration officials to be on the look out for the Spanish-speaking man for questioning in connection with the bank scam.
The discovery of the body at Lowther’s Lane prompted police officers to ascertain whether the deceased was not the same person they were looking for.
The police officers positively identified him after reportedly reviewing video footage from the bank on the day that his wife was detained and he ran from the scene.
THE NEW TODAY understands that some of the money taken from the bank were already sent out of the country by the woman now in custody at the prison.
There are reports that Rojas was allegedly beaten in the head with a concrete ballister by his attackers.
Police investigators, armed with leads that were picked up, soon took the two suspects into custody for questioning.
One of them reportedly “confessed” in a statement to his role in the murder and contended that Rojas had threatened to wipe out his family.
Police believe that the money scam at the bank might hold the clue to the murder at Lowther’s Lane.
The suspects – Pestana and Rodriquez – were brought to court on Tuesday where the charge of murder was read to them by Chief Magistrate, Her Honour Tamara Gill.
They are both accused of committing non-capital murder between Thursday May 26th and Saturday May 28th at Lowther’s Lane by intentionally causing the death of Rojas by unlawful harm.
An authoritative source told this newspaper that Rojas’ body was found by the owner of the apartment building tied and wrapped in a sheet.
The deceased is believed to be one of three men who came to the owner of the apartment to have it rented.
Pestana is being represented by seasoned criminal defense Attorney, Anselm Clouden, while Rodriquez is being represented by Attorney-at-Law, Derick Sylvester.
The defense team is seeking to have a speedy trial for the accused Spanish-speaking men.
As a result, Magistrate Gill has set June 15th at 1:00 p.m. for the start of the Preliminary Inquiry (PI).
Six witnesses including Rojas’ wife will most likely be called to give evidence in the PI.
An offer put forward by Police Prosecutor, Assistant Superintendent of Police, Godfrey Victor for a paper committal was turned down by the defense.
Sylvester told the court while he is very grateful for the Prosecution’s offer, he is prepared to go to trial with the case, and will take it step by step.
Both Lawyers used the opportunity to speak to the media about the case on their hand.
Clouden spoke with confidence of having a very strong case.
“As far as I’m concerned, my client is innocent. We have certain defenses we propose to advance, having regards to the circumstances surrounding the death of the deceased… We have a strong case, and my client will be vindicated at some stage during the course and conduct of the trial,” he told the media.
However, Clouden said he made an application to have full disclosure of the police file on the case as the defense needs to be prepared “to meet the challenges that confront us.”
The seasoned attorney said it was rather unfortunate that the State failed to provide the defense with full disclosure of the case before the accused men were brought to court.
He indicated that the Prosecution is under a prevailing duty to disclose the entire file of its case to the defense before the accused persons are brought to court.
“I don’t even have the alleged statement that was taken from my client before I arrived at the police station,” he remarked.
According to Clouden, Pestana has been living in Grenada for a number of years with his parents who were once attached to the Venezuelan Embassy in St. George’s, while Rodriquez who is 21 years of age, has been residing in Grenada for the past year.
The other member of the defense team were equally not happy that full disclosure was not provided.
According to Sylvester, there was no eyewitness to the alleged incident.
Meanwhile, the Preliminary Inquiry (PI) into the death of Barry Lawrence of La Mode, St. George’s failed to get started on Tuesday.
When the matter came up before Chief Magistrate, the court was looking to take the evidence of Dr. Cabero.
However, Director of Public Prosecutions, Christopher Nelson who will be leading the evidence on behalf of the State informed the court that he does not have the doctor’s report.
Cliffon Sergeant who is also from La Mode is accused of intentionally and unlawfully causing the death of Lawrence on April 21st at La Mode.
Sergeant is due back in court on June 16th.