Captain Andrzej Lasota was arrested by the Mexican authorities on the grounds of alleged “negligence in failing to be aware that the ship he commanded may have been carrying prohibited substances”, said substances being illegally delivered to Mexico, placing the lives and health of the country's citizens at risk. In excess of 240 kgs of cocaine, buried under several thousand tons of coal, was discovered when the ship’s Duty Officer, having noticed suspicious packages in the hold during unloading, informed the First Officer who subsequently notified the ship’s Master. Captain Andrzej Lasota immediately suspended discharging and reported the findings to the Mexican authorities who thereafter proceeded to arrest both the vessel and the entire crew.
Despite the fact that the vessel was subject to multiple extensive searches at the loading port, Barranquilla, Colombia, by both local police and port security officers, during which no drugs were located and the eventual lack of evidence of any involvement by any crewmember in the drug trafficking, the entire crew were imprisoned in the city of Ciudad Victoria. They are innocent seamen, going about their daily business, being treated as common criminals, needless to say, fearful for their immediate personal safety and imminent future for themselves and respective families / dependents. With the exception of Captain Andrzej Lasota, the remaining compliment of crew were released by the court some two months later, only to be re-arrested by the Immigration office due to their port passes having expired during their detention and hence were considered as remaining in Mexico illegally. After a further 6 weeks in custody, they were deported, assisted by immigration officials.
Captain Andrzej Lasota, stressed and anxious regarding both his own and crewmembers’ predicament, was deprived of access to medicines which had been prescribed on a medical practitioner’s advice and, as a consequence, his health deteriorated and he was temporarily admitted to a medical facility. Unfortunately, under pressure from the local police, he was returned to prison after signing a declaration that the therapy provided would be continued. Later his condition necessitated transfer to a private clinic, where he remained, under guard, for over one month before being discharged and returned to his cell. The allegations against Captain Andrzej Lasota are punishable by a term of prolonged imprisonment ranging from anything between 10 to 20 years. In December of 2019, suddenly, without announcement Captain Andrzej Lasota was transferred from Ciudad Victoria to a heavily secured federal prison in city of Tepic.
Intership and it’s legal representatives as well locally adopted sources were equally at a loss to comprehend how, and why, given the irrefutable facts surrounding the discovery of the “cache” and immediate transparency of Captain Andrzej Lasota’s actions, he should remain indefinitely incarcerated in a hostile and perilous environment. Captain Andrzej Lasota’s colleagues, family and friends pursued all avenues to assist him in the endeavour to be re-united with his homeland and loved ones, although their efforts alone were not enough given the judiciary and political obstacles.
Intership’s lawyers, the Polish consul to Mexico as well as Janusz Florczuk of ISN USA frequently visited the Captain in prison and were in close contact with his family, keeping them up to date with all information’s and developments. Together with the family of the Captain, we called upon the President of the Republic of Poland to appeal to the President of the Republic of Mexico.
Intership Management further addressed this matter with officials in Cyprus, Germany and Poland. The General Secretary of IMO was informed as well during vising our office November last year.
With great help from InterManager and Captain Kuba Szymanski, Capt. Lasota’s case was brought to the attention of the IMO Legal Committee. The above reference case clearly demonstrates the need for the Committee and ILO to take further action with regard to the fair treatment of Seafarers in a non-casualty situation.
Captain Andrzej Lasota, Andrzej as he is known to his friends and colleagues, is not just another casualty of a corrupt society, he is the personification of a Polish Master Mariner, having spent many years at sea, educating countless officers and other Master Mariners, never having neglected his duties and responsibilities. He is a highly respected and valued navigator, with an unblemished reputation. It is his devotion to duty and adherence to procedures that may have contributed to his current plight.