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BVI Court Drops $511,000 Ransom Demand, But Keeps New Jersey Fisherman In Jail

ROAD TOWN, Tortola — The Magistrates Court in the British Virgin Islands dismissed the illegal fishing charges against New Jersey fisherman Michael Foy, according to his family and attorneys.

But the court did not dismiss the illegal entry charge. and Foy’s scheduled to stand trial on that charge October 27.  

Foy, 60, has been in jail since June 8 when he was arrested by British Virgin Islands customs officials and charged with illegal entry for violating the islands’ COVID-19 curfew. 

Michael Foy, 60, in the “medieval” BVI jail.

Foy was subsequently charged with unregistered and unlicensed fishing and failure to arrive at a customs port.

“It’s definitely a small win on the charges and a big win on the monetary fines,” Kimberly Kelly, Foy’s sister, said. “The illegal entry carries a small fine and up to a year in prison, so we definitely want to win that one. I’m just really praying they release him on bail. It will be a lot easier for all of us to prepare during the next 18 days if he were out of prison.”

Foy’s first request for bail was denied on the basis that he has no connection or legal status to the territory, according to a statement released July 17 by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, following media scrutiny of the case. 

The High Court reversed that decision. Foy’s attorney, Paul Edwards of the law firm Hunte & Co. on Tortola, the largest of the British Virgin Islands, said they’re “working around the clock to have the requirements for bail satisfied so he can be released.”    

If Foy’s released, he would have to remain on the island. 

According to his family and lawyers, Foy was taking four Indonesian crew members to the British Virgin Islands to get their passports stamped in order to legally return to U.S. land when he was arrested. 

The Indonesian crew members are holders of C-11 transit visas, which is only applicable to persons working on fishing vessels, and they must have their passports stamped every 29 days. Foy has been clearing the men through Tortola for the last year, his family and lawyers said.

His lawyers said Foy called his agent at Tortola to clear customs and was told to wait offshore. As he was drifting offshore he was approached by British Virgin Islands customs officials who brought him to port, where he was then arrested. 

Foy’s commercial fishing vessel Rebel Lady was carrying 7,000 pounds of tuna and swordfish. The boat and catch were seized by officials. 

His lawyers said Foy had electronic monitoring records to prove he caught the fish outside of British Virgin Islands waters, contrary to British Virgin Islands officials claim that he caught them illegally in their waters. 

Kelly said the Indonesian crew members returned home last Sunday. 

Foy lives and fishes out of Puerto Rico but he still maintains a house with his wife in New Jersey.

Meanwhile, a petition at change.org to free Michael Foy has gathered 4,000 signatures, according to Seafood News.

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