By FARRAH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
A SWISS man who spent nine months on remand for importing $50,000 worth of cocaine into the country was yesterday turned over to the Department of Immigration for deportation.
Rene Buffat, 67, first appeared before Deputy Chief Magistrate Andrew Forbes late last year after officers seized 7.4 pounds of cocaine from him on November 21, 2019.
At the time, Buffat was charged with one count each of possession of dangerous drugs with intent to supply, importation of dangerous drugs, conspiracy to possess dangerous drugs with intent to supply,and conspiracy to import dangerous drugs.
After spending nine months at the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services, Buffat returned to court to plead guilty to the allegations.
The court heard officers at Lynden Pindling International Airport observed Buffat, who was carrying a duffle bag and a black suitcase, proceeding to exit the Bahamas Customs hall. The prosecution said officers then approached the defendant and informed him he would be searched in reference to dangerous drugs and firearms. Buffat was then transported to the airport’s police station and when officers searched his duffle bag there, they discovered a false compartment at the bottom of the luggage which contained a quantity of suspected marijuana. Buffat was subsequently arrested and taken to the Drug Enforcement Unit. Through an interpreter the defendant admitted to travelling to the Bahamas from Panama, but said he did not know his bag contained drugs.
He also said he had planned to take the bag to London to give it to a person he had never met.
During the arraignment, Buffat was represented by attorney Jairam Mangra. He told the magistrate his client accepted responsibility for his actions and understood it was “foolish” to allow himself to be used to transport illegal drugs into the country. Noting Buffat was remorseful, Mr Mangra added the defendant had lost a substantial amount of weight since he was incarcerated at the prison last year.
In response, Magistrate Forbes said it “befuddled” him as to why senior citizens were willing to make “extraordinary trips” to participate in illicit activities without considering the consequences of their actions. He also noted while Buffat may have been “duped,” he should have known better since officials have made “considerable efforts” to warn people not to carry luggage for other people. As a result, he sentenced the defendant to time served.
Buffat will be released to the director of immigration to assist with his deportation to Switzerland.
On Wednesday, an elderly Spanish woman who was arraigned earlier this year in connection with the seizure of 12 pounds of cocaine was released to the Department of Immigration for deportation after spending five months in custody.
Esperanza Bonet-Roig, 73, of Majorca, Spain first appeared before Deputy Chief Magistrate Andrew Forbes in March, after officers seized cocaine from her. Bonet-Roig was charged with dangerous drug possession with the intent to supply and importation of the contraband into the country.
After spending five months on remand, Bonet-Roig returned to court Wednesday to plead guilty to the charges brought against her.