The CoP said the recapture of Almestica was a major achievement for the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force (RVIPF) in 2021.
“We consider Mr Almestica recapture substantial. He is obviously a lead player in the drug and arms trade not just in the BVI but in the USVI. There is a strong possibility that other charges may be brought against him as investigations continue. Almestica spent a number of years traversing the seas between the territories. Law enforcement agencies in both jurisdictions had hoped to recapture him before he was aware he was on the radar, which we did,” CoP Collins said at a press conference held today, Friday, January 7, 2022.
Mr Collins said in addition to the existing charges of escaping lawful custody, Almestica was charged with 11 counts of Keeping an Unlicensed Firearm, four counts of Keeping a Prohibited Weapon, one count of Carrying an Unlicensed Firearm, eight counts of Unlawful Possession of Ammunition and four counts of Possession of Controlled Drugs with Intent to Supply.
He said the new charges, “are as a result of the discovery of a cache of high powered, illegal and prohibited weapons; an unprecedented quantity of ammunition and a large amount of cash, as well as, a large amount of counterfeit notes, cocaine with a street value of almost $50 million, which were recovered in an operation conducted at the residence where Almestica was known to reside. As a result of the operation conducted by the Major Incident Team, 20 firearms total were confiscated. Of those 20, seven were high-powered prohibited weapons. In addition, close of 500 kilos of cocaine, 5.8 kilos of cannabis and hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash were seized.”
The CoP stated that others were also similarly charged with Almestica.
“Further, we have also laid similar charges against the three who were originally charged with harbouring Mr Almestica. These persons are Jennifer Smith, 26, Renee Smith, 33, and Shamal Smith, 31 (all previously charged with harbouring related offences and are on remand at Her Majesty’s Prison). They were charged with: 11 counts of Keeping an Unlicensed Firearm, three counts of Keeping a Prohibited Weapon, seven counts of Unlawful Possession of Ammunition, and four counts of Possession of Control Drugs with Intent to Supply.”
Mr Collins said with the illegal firearms confiscated in this operation and the guns confiscated during other operations this year, “we have set a record of 30 guns seized for the year 2021. Of those seized, seven were prohibitive weapons. We also seized a record 1650 rounds of ammunition.”
He said the investigation is still live.
Almestica, 33, of the US Virgin Islands, was re-captured on December 7, 2021. He was in prison for illegal possession of a firearm, possession of ammunition and illegal entry prior to his escape from Her Majesty's Prison following the passage of Hurricane Irma in September 2017.