By Alexis R. Milan
Two Bahamian nationals arrested in Belize are pending an extradition request by the United States for their involvement in a billion dollar securities fraud and money laundering scheme.
Rohn Knowles and Kelvin Leach were arrested last week at the Phillip Goldson International Airport for failing to declare the amount of cash they were travelling with. While they were granted bail on Monday for those charges, the men were kept in custody due to the extradition request.
Attorney representing both men, Godfrey Smith, said that his clients were never given a chance to declare their money.
Smith said the arrest was merely a tactic to buy time for the extradition request.
Smith also indicated that prior to attempting to go back to their home country they had contacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and were assured that there was no extradition request for either Knowles or Leach.
Smith said that he was confident his clients would be able to beat the charge of failing to declare currency and said he would have to wait to see the details of the extradition request before he could make a statement.
Last week, Knowles and Leach were indicted in a Federal Court in New York along with four other men on charges of conspiracy to commit securities fraud, tax fraud, and money laundering of up to US$500 million.
The companies named in the indictment include IPC Corporate Services, whose registered office is on the fourth floor of the Matalon Building on Coney Drive, Titan Brokerage, also listed on the Matalon’s fourth floor, Legacy Global Markets and Unicorn International Services.
Last week police and Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) personnel visited the Matalon’s fourth floor to confiscate documents to assist the FBI with their investigation.
Robert Bandfield, an American citizen also alleged to have been involved in organizing the scheme, was arrested in Miami last week.
“As alleged, Bandfield and his co-conspirators devised not only a fraudulent scheme but an elaborate corporate structure based on lies and deceit designed to enable U.S. citizens to evade and circumvent our securities and tax laws.
“They set up sham companies with figureheads at the helm in an attempt to deceive U.S. law enforcement and regulators and bragged about their scheme to their clients,” Loretta E. Lynch, US attorney, said.
An undercover FBI agent, who posed as a client looking to access the illegal services of the offshore companies, reportedly approached the defendants. Once the men explained the way their service worked the FBI was able to build a case against them.
In July, another Belizean company Cynk, which was also listed at an address on the fourth floor at the Matalon Building, was accused of corporate fraud.