Helicopter pilot freed of cocaine charges

A helicopter pilot who was charged with possession of cocaine trafficking in 2016, has been discharged by a Port of Spain magistrate.
Tonya Dalmada was before Magistrate Rehanna Hosein charged with possession of cocaine valued at approximately $1.3 million on July 24, 2016.

It was alleged the cocaine was found in her apartment at Crystal Gardens, Van Buren Avenue, Diego Martin.
At the end of the trial, Hosein held that both the prosecution and defence had agreed that Dalmada needed to show that the drugs were there without her knowledge and consent and found her to be a very credible witness.

In dismissing the charge, Hosein found that the prosecution’s case raised too many questionable circumstances, including a previous search by police where nothing illegal was found; an informant who was never investigated and who suggested to the police what time they should go to her house.

In closing submissions, Dalmada’s attorneys, Gilbert Peterson, SC, John Heath and Lee Merry, urged the court to consider if the prosecution had made out a prima facie case so that the “deeming provision” of the Dangerous Drugs Act was applicable.
The “deeming provision” deems a person, who occupies or controls a building where a dangerous drug is found, to be in possession of the property unless they can prove the drug was there without their knowledge and consent.

Dalmada’s attorneys argued that the shifting of the burden on the defence had not been established by the State.
According to her testimony, shortly after she got home on July 24, 2016, police came with a search warrant. It was their second visit as four days earlier, they also searched her apartment but found nothing. She also spent the next night at her parents’ home.

On searching her son’s room, police allegedly found packages of cocaine, wrapped with duct tape, in a cupboard. She told them she never saw them before and did not know how it got there.
In testimony, Dalmada said earlier that day she received a call from a close male relative who wanted to meet her. She also received several missed calls from him and testified that the request to meet specifically at the apartment was unusual. He never turned up. Instead, the police came.

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