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Feb 2, 2018

Foreign Affairs Says Andrew Bennett Extradition Docs Legit

Andrew Bennett

This morning in the Chief Magistrate’s Court, a U.S. request for the extradition of attorney Andrew Bennett got underway.  The extradition request contains seven counts of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Each count carries a prison term of between two and three years in the U.S.  At today’s hearing, Jenina Urbina took the witness stand and testified that she received the extradition documents at the Belize Ministry of Foreign Affairs from the United States Department of State, authenticated under seal by Ambassador Daniel Gutierrez.  The documents contain the details of the money laundering allegations and affidavits by U.S. government officials including special agent Joseph Pelz from the Drug Enforcement Agency.  He claims to have had face to face and telephone conversations with Bennett which forms the basis for the extradition request. Agent Pelz’s evidence is that the D.E.A. since November 2013 had information that high level bankers and political figures in Belize were creating money laundering businesses for drug trafficking organizations through three banks operating in Belize. One of the banks, he described, as using “nested” accounts.  Agent Pelz also alleges that since August of 2013, acting in an undercover capacity and in the presence of a confidential source, Belizean Ernest Raymond introduced him to Bennett in Belize City. And it is from there that the conspiracy to money-launder started to unfold. Pelz further alleges that two hundred and fifty thousand U.S. dollars were handed to Bennett who took it to Sling Shot, an advertising company in Belize City. The agent further states that he gave Bennett the names of several companies in the U.S. and Puerto Rico where the money was to be laundered and he confirms that the local business wired several sums to the U.S. businesses.  These allegations are expected to be tested on February twenty-second when the Chief Magistrate will hear submissions from Bennett’s attorney and responses from the Solicitor General. The case now moves to disclosure and a formal hearing if there are no objections to the legitimacy of the documents, as Nigel Hawke explains.

 

Nigel Hawke

Nigel Hawke, Solicitor General

“All we did today was lay the documents over formally; they were authenticated, so the next step now is disclosure and then we move to a date for having the evidence led.”

 

Reporter

“Why exactly was it necessary for the officer from Foreign Affairs to make an appearance today?”

 

Nigel Hawke

“Because, in accordance with the 1870 Extradition Act, it is required that the documents be laid over by someone who received the documents. She would have received it for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and then the Act requires that the Magistrate basically authenticate it as having been received by her.”

 

Reporter

“And you highlighted section fifteen of that act; talk to us about the importance of that section and the term ‘shall be deemed.’”

 

Nigel Hawke

“It says once the documents have been received, and you are satisfied that it has been signed by either a foreign officer or a magistrate from the other jurisdiction, the section says it shall be deemed authenticated; when something is deemed it is as if though it is already authenticated.”

 

Reporter

“So what happens next in terms of disclosure?”

 

Nigel Hawke

“We disclose exactly what was laid before the court, that will be disclosed to the other side; and then we move now to the issue of leading evidence on the twenty-second of February.”

 

The defense led by Anthony Sylvestre has until the sixteenth of February to lay objection. If there is any, the Solicitor General must respond by February twentieth, two days before the matter returns to court on February twenty-second. Bennett remains out on bail.

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