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Guats Caught and Released WHO GAVE THE ORDER?

Guats Caught and Released WHO GAVE THE ORDER?
April 05
14:17 2019
Thursday, April 5, 2019 - Reporter News Staff - 

By Michelle Sutherland

While not one person in a position of authority was willing to provide any official information on the release of twelve Guatemalans apprehended in Southern Belize last Friday, a source in the Ministry of National Security told the Reporter that it ‘stank to high heavens,’ and claims that the detained Guatemalans are involved in the contraband cigarette trade, and are connected to very ‘big’ persons in Belize. The men were found with $40K in US currency, an additional offence to being in the country illegally.

And if that were not enough, says that source, the boat on which the Guatemalans were detained in Belizean territory was not held, even though Port offences were also in evidence. So then the million dollar question has to be, this newspaper was told, if the Guatemalans committed obvious Immigration, Customs and Port offences, how is it possible that they were determined to be conducting ‘legitimate business’ and released? And who issued that release order?

As we go to press, the Reporter has asked that question of Police CEO, Ret’d Col. George Lovell, who committed to getting some answers to the very troubling questions.

Since details of the incident broke, there have been multiple requests to the Police for information. Over the weekend, authorities would only comment that the matter is an Immigration matter and they would not be offering or providing details to the press.

According to reports, around 12:40 p.m. on March 29th elements of the Belize Coast Guard were conducting patrols near the Moho River in Punta Gorda when they intercepted a Guatemalan vessel along with three other vessels nearby. A search inside the vessels revealed twelve Guatemalan nationals, one of whom had three bundles of US currency totaling forty thousand dollars, $2,525.00 quetzales and eleven cellular phones.

The only official details the media could get concerning the bust was from CEO in the Ministry of National Security Felix Enriquez, who confirmed that the group of men were initially detained by Coast Guard personnel and then handed over to Punta Gorda Police. Enriquez revealed that he was later informed that the group of men were released from Police custody after it was learnt that they were on their way to Punta Gorda Town to transact legitimate business when they were intercepted.

Earlier this week, the media caught up with Commissioner of Police Chester Williams and he was also tight-lipped when asked about the topic. He would only say that “the matter is still being looked at, at this time.”

As it relates to the substantial amount of cash found on one of the men who has been unofficially identified as a Guatemalan businessman, the press asked Williams whether the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) was consulted prior to the men and the cash being released. Williams commented, “As I said, the matter is still being looked at, at this time. I won’t comment any further on it right now.”

Legally, a person can only be in possession of ten thousand dollars cash on their person at any given time and any amount more than that would be declared illegal and would have to be declared to the FIU.

When asked who authorized the release from custody, CEO Enriquez would only say – “Again, I am not certain why they were released or who made the decision for them to be released. I could find out. After I heard that the Coast Guard had handed them over, I was really not too much concerned afterward. I became concerned when I heard that they were indeed released and there were questions surrounding that. But I was told that it was because it was a legitimate transaction.”

On Thursday the Reporter tried to follow up with Enriquez on those details but he would only comment “That investigation is ongoing so I cannot comment further at this time.”

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