Four US citizens arrested after ‘accidentally’ sailing in British Virgin Islands waters
Four US citizens claim to be held as “hostages” in the British Virgin Islands after accidentally illegally navigating the territory’s waters last month.
John Hines, his partner Lynn Hines and their friends Nicholas Cancro and Jeanne McKinnon were arrested on November 19 by customs and immigration officials, according to a statement from the British Virgin Islands’ Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
U.S. citizens are currently barred from entry due to coronavirus restrictions, and the statement claims the four detainees were placed in mandatory 14-day quarantine at a local, government-funded hotel.
Yet the Americans claim they were held “without cause” for 12 days and are housed together in an insect infested room where even the sink fell off the wall.
John Hines, his partner Lynn Hines and his friends Nicholas Cancro and Jeanne McKinnon were arrested on November 19 by customs and immigration officials in the British Virgin Islands.
The group claims they were traveling from St. Thomas to St. John’s Island when they accidentally crossed 1.5 miles in British Virgin Island waters and turned around when they were detained.
John and Lynn Hines, of South Carolina, say they were traveling from St. Thomas to St. John’s Island with their two friends when their boat accidentally entered 1.5 mile waters in the British Virgin Islands.
They claim they noticed the error and turned around, but customs officials had already spotted the vessel and approached them.
‘This is where they took our passports and all the documents from the boat and then said you were accused of attempting to enter the country illegally, of not making it to a port of entry and that they carried two fines of $ 10,000, ” Lynn Hines said. WJLA.
The couple say that only their friend Cancro, the owner of the boat, has received a charge sheet since their placement at the hotel and that they have received different information on who is handling their case.
“ Every time we enter the hallway, the security guards are right above us to enter the room, ” Lynn said.
“ We were told that Customs is not dealing with the case, that Immigration is dealing with the case. Then it was immigration that did not take care of the case, now the prosecutor took care of the case. Every day this week we have been told that you are going to court today. It did not happen.
“ Please make people understand why you are doing what you are doing, especially people like us who haven’t really broken any laws, at least on purpose, ” she added. WSOC. “We should at least be able to be heard and tell someone what’s going on.
“All I want is an answer. Why are you keeping us? And they won’t tell us.
A photo taken by Lynn Hynes while in custody on November 19
Group claims only Nicholas Cancro received a charge sheet as the owner of the boat
They also allege that the boat owner attempted to pay the $ 20,000 fines with a credit card, but customs officials only accepted cash.
“We are hostages held for ransom and not charged. The only person responsible is the owner of the boat. We were informed because we were on the boat that we were also in territorial waters and that we were detained, ”says John Hines.
The detainees were scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday to determine whether charges would be laid against them, BVI officials said, but the date was pushed back later this week, according to the WJLA.
The couple said they contacted South Carolina Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott for help.
Lynn Hines’ sister Sue Carlin said she was concerned about the outcome.
“They’re not trying to make it a problem. They just want to get out. Pay the fine and get out and they were basically told unless you have some cash there is nothing we can do for you except set up a court, ” Carlin said.
“ I am very concerned because I saw the accommodation conditions that were granted to them for their detention. I don’t understand why my sister and brother-in-law who have not been charged are being held without any real resolution.
Lynn and John Hines, pictured together, called on South Carolina Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott for help. The U.S. Embassy in Barbados is also involved
The group shared these photos of the times they were held.
However, the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions for the British Virgin Islands refuted all of the Americans’ claims in their statement on Sunday.
They said “all four are safe and in care” and that charges against them will be decided once they are brought to court.
Nicholas Cancro, John Hines Jr, Lynee Ann Hines and Jeanne McKinnon were on board a ship that entered territorial waters without permission from the Department of Health and the Immigration Chief, while the Borders of the territory remain closed, ” the statement said.
“ The case was submitted to the public prosecutor’s office on November 27, 2020 by the customs commissioner at 11:15 a.m., after which the case was dealt with and forwarded to the district court via the police prosecutor’s office, for a hearing date urgent. ”
They also warned that the territory has the right to apprehend anyone who breaks its laws and that the accusations broadcast by the Americans “are without merit.”
The office of the Director of Public Prosecutions for the British Virgin Islands fired back in a statement Sunday, announcing to the public that the four Americans had entered the territory illegally.
The US State Department said it was aware of the case and was helping.
“ We know that U.S. citizens Lynn Hines, John Hines, Jeanne McKinnon and Nicholas Cancro have been detained in the British Virgin Islands for illegally entering / failing to show up in an authorized port, ” the department told the WJLA.
“We take seriously our responsibility to assist US citizens abroad and provide all appropriate consular services. We remain in communication with detained US citizens.
According to the US Embassy, there are currently no commercial flights to the British Virgin Islands and US citizens should reconsider their travel there.
All visitors to the island should be quarantined for 14 days. The four Americans detained have so far only completed 12 days of quarantine.
The embassy also advises that private or commercial vessels are prohibited from operating in territorial waters, unless that person is approved by the governor.
The BVI reopened their borders on December 1 with restrictions in place.
The territory has 72 confirmed cases of coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.