By Marion V. Ali
Members of the Belize Defense Force and the Belize Police Department are conducting an operation in the area where an abandoned BELL-407 helicopter, said to be worth $4 million, was discovered last week Wednesday afternoon, on a feeder road near Blue Creek Village, Orange Walk.
BDF Commandant, Brigadier General David Jones has said, “We have operations running there … jointly with the BDF and the police. I won’t disclose what sort of operations we are doing because we can alert people that we operating in the area.”
The area Jones spoke of is very close to Mexican communities known for selling contraband grocery items to Belizeans.
It is located in the northwestern Orange Walk and its nearest neighbour is La Union, Mexico, which sits right across the Rio Hondo.
Since the helicopter is undamaged and in top shape, there is speculation that Mexico’s and the United States’ most wanted fugitive, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman may have been, or may still be in Belize – seeking refuge from the long arm of the law.
El Chapo has eluded authorities since he escaped from his jail cell at one of Mexico’s maximum security prisons in Altiplano on Saturday July 11. A bounty has been offered for his recapture.
Since the Anti Drug Unit discovered the chopper, a BDF pilot flew the aircraft to Price Barracks in Ladyville. Its registration number – N607AZ – has still not been traced to any country and that fact, coupled with the discovery of several blue plastic receptacles containing fuel, to enable it to refuel in midflight, have caused law enforcement authorities to believe that it was used either to transport people to the location, or to traffic illicit drugs.
There is no evidence, however, to indicate that any drugs were stashed onboard.
If there is no legitimate claim to it, the Government of Belize will confiscate the helicopter and use it as part of its fleet, which coincidentally will include two more of the same type, through a donation from Taiwan, to be used for border patrols.