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Three fined for importing RHIB

Three Spaniards were yesterday fined £7,500 by the Magistrates’ Court after they pleaded guilty to the importation of a rigid-hull inflatable boat.

The court heard the trio were involved in a collision with the Royal Gibraltar Police’s marine section vessel after a high-speed police chase at sea on Monday morning.

Crown prosecutor, James Lennane, said police had received a tip off from the Guardia Civil about a suspect RHIB heading into British Gibraltar Territorial Waters.

“The navigator was doing evasive manoeuvres to avoid capture during which it collided with the police vessel and then came to a halt,” Mr Lennane said.

He said the RHIB was 14-meters long, with three 350-horse power engines, is of a type often used in drug trafficking and is worth £18,000.

The vessel’s navigator, Juan Manuel Ordonez Suarez, 36, from Algeciras, pleaded guilty to the importation of the RHIB, navigating in a dangerous manner and obstructing police.

His co-defendants, Francisco Gil Dominguez, 34, from Jerez, and Juan Jose Pinero Espinosa, 24, from Algeciras, also pleaded guilty to the importation.

Mr Pinero Espinosa also pleaded to the possession and importation of 0.8g of cannabis resin.

Their lawyer, Suresh Mahtani, said the vessel was “attempting to mitigate rough and choppy waters” and that the collision was an accident.

He said his clients thought they were still being chased by the Guardia Civil and did not know they were no longer in Spanish waters as it was dark at the time and they could not see where they were going.

Mr Mahtani added: “While I understand the habitual use of such vessels, save for the three occupants there was no other cargo on board.”

The three men were served with an immediate fine by the Stipendiary Magistrates Charles Pitto and the vessel was forfeited.

Mr Ordonez Suarez was fined £3,500 for dangerous navigation with no separate penalty for the other charges.

He will have to serve three months in prison if he fails to pay the amount.

Mr Gil Dominguez and Mr Pinero Espinosa were fined £2,000 each for the importation of the RHIB, and in default, two months in prison.