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Jun 15, 2017

Puerto Azul Conspirators Face Jail Time and Fines; But Is It Enough?

After a year of investigation by Italian police, the courts of Italy have pronounced justice on several persons accused of defrauding investors of more than twenty million U.S. dollars in a faked hotel resort scheme. Chief Developer of the Puerto Azul “eight-star” hotel project, Domenico Giannini; his partner, Fabio La Rosa; and two others have indicated that they will plead guilty to multiple counts of money laundering, fraud and conspiracy for their activity with the Puerto Azul resort that was proposed to have been built in the Lighthouse Reef Atoll.  Many were duped, including Belizean Ministers of Government Manuel Heredia Junior and Erwin Contreras, who mingled in 2014 with the likes of John Travolta, Kelly Preston and Andrea Bocelli to promote the launch at the Cannes Film Festival. But while formal sentencing takes place in July, News Five was contacted exclusively by former investor Daniele Pistolesi, who has been following events and cooperating with investigators in Italy. He believes the judge’s decision is excessively merciful considering all that has happened. Aaron Humes spoke with him in a News Five exclusive and files the following report.

 

Daniele Pistolesi

Daniele Pistolesi, Investor

“On July third, Mr. [Domenico] Giannini and three of his closest associates will be immediately judged by the judge who conducted the investigation. Mr. Giannini – this is official news – and the other three, these days, have asked to be punished. In Italy there is the possibility of asking for condemnation without confessing, but admitting the full blame. The imprisonment for Mr. Giannini was four and a half years in prison and twenty thousand [U.S.] dollars in compensation. The other three in court have custodial sentences of three years and ten thousand [U.S.] dollars in compensation.”

 

Aaron Humes Reporting:

In January, seven businessmen accused of luring more than two hundred people into investing in an eight-star resort in Belize that never got off the ground were arrested and charged. Some twenty-one million U.S. dollars vanished into offshore accounts in Belize, Luxembourg and eventually Switzerland. While justice is remarkably swift, for Daniele Pistolesi, the sentences handed down are too lenient for the severity of what happened.

 

Daniele Pistolesi

“I think the imprisonment sentence attributed to Mr. Giannini and others is ridiculous. To make the biggest scam in the last ten years, the detention penalty is ridiculous, and this is very strange. In fact the crimes committed by the criminal association are very serious and are the following: financial abuses, abuses of savings collection, obstruction of watchdogs, money laundering, aggravated fraud, misappropriation, fake acting and personal substitution, [circumcision of incapacity] and criminal association.”

 

According to Pistolesi, other investors he has spoken with are equally outraged.

 

Daniele Pistolesi

“In this month I’ve talked to many investors [stolen from], and I can say that the criminal gangster association has put many families on the pile of economics, making them poor. We [are talking] about more than four hundred Italian families and other countries around the world. I will continue to struggle to make the whole truth emerge as a key witness. I have created a non-profit association to bring together all the Puerto Azul victims and we are activating to be compensated for the damage done.”

 

Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.

 

There is no indication that any Belizeans are among those under continued investigation. According to Varese News, investigators say the celebrities were unaware the project was a scam and cooperated with authorities. Some nineteen million U.S. dollars in real estate and assets were seized. The fraudsters targeted unsuspecting investors ranging from successful entrepreneurs to elderly retirees. Police additionally found that one such investor, a wealthy businessman, invested nearly seven million U.S. dollars allegedly earned through a tax evasion scheme.

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