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Nov 14, 2018

Coastal Road Cocaine Haul is Incinerated

A convoy of vehicles book-ended by wailing sirens made its way along the George Price Highway this morning, en route to a location out west where a sizeable amount of drugs would be set afire.  Inside the police van were fifteen bales of cocaine that were seized during an operation at the beginning of the month.  After closely guarding the quantity of narcotics for almost two weeks, the police department was finally given permission to destroy the seizure.  That was done in the Cayo District earlier today, in the presence of several court-approved witnesses, including the media.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano has that story.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

On the local front, the war on drugs has largely been a game of cat and mouse; the police department, more often than not, having to play catch-up with the bad guys.  Despite the intelligence and resources made available for law enforcement to come down on traffickers, illegal drugs continue to transit through the country quite easily.  The destruction of this latest seizure has removed fifteen bales of cocaine from the black market.  Over the years, tons of narcotics have passed through Belize and it is very likely that many more will continue to lay over at this transshipment point with very few arrests.

 

Chester Williams

Chester Williams, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Operations)

“Sometimes things don’t go the way we’d want it to go, but I will say still [that] it was good work on the part of the police who were able to remove the drugs off the street.  And if the drugs did belong to those persons who we suspected it belonged to, then we cannot say that they got away because the fact of the matter is that the drugs were confiscated, they no longer have it and they will not be able to make the proceeds that they would have from it and on top of that they were arrested and charged for immigration offenses, as well as firearms offenses.”

 

That’s in respect of a case against Guatemalan nationals Bernardo de Los Angeles Franco Carias and Mario Rudolfo Lopez Moreira.  Both men were arraigned last Thursday, following charges of possession of illegal firearms and ammunition.  They were among a group of men who entered the country unlawfully and it is also believed that they may have been tied to a drug operation which resulted in the confiscation of a substantial quantity of cocaine being destroyed today.  The seizure, nonetheless, does not stop criminal drug activity from taking place.

 

Allen Whylie

Allen Whylie, Commissioner of Police

“The investigation is ongoing, so I won’t say that the organized crime or the organization has been dismantled.  We do have a number or persons that we believe to be involved.  Unfortunately, we didn’t catch the plane, we didn’t catch the driver or the occupants and so it is difficult to tie them, but we are working in terms of how we can tie them.  As I said, surveillance led to certain actions being taken, so it’s significant in terms of moving that quantity of drugs.  We don’t know if all would have been taken out of the country or some would have remained.”

 

This morning, at a predetermined location in the Cayo District, the haul was incinerated after careful inspection and record-keeping.

 

Chester Williams

“Today we are destroying the large quantity of drugs that were confiscated in the Coastal Road area about two weeks ago.  We have received the order for destruction from the magistrate’s court and we are now in the process of doing what is required by law to destroy the drugs to be able to get it out of our custody.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“This is a painstaking process we’re observing here, can you walk us through what exactly these observers are doing, as well as the persons destroying each parcel?”

 

Chester Williams

“Well the way how the destruction process goes is that first we must get the confirmation from the lab that the content of the parcels are indeed cocaine.  After having received that then we make an application to the magistrate’s court for an order of destruction.  Once the magistrate grants that order then we go into the practical aspect of destruction and that requires by law that we have certain people present as witnesses to the process.  One of the persons who must be present is a magistrate, we must have a Justice of the Peace and then we have a member of the media who would be the media witness to the process.”

 

Individually, the parcels are cut open and a field test is conducted before they are tossed into a roiling bonfire.  These drugs were found in southeast Belize District.  The Coastal Road has seen an increase in criminal activity over the past two weeks, including a sighting of heavily armed men traversing the area last weekend.

 

Chester Williams

“We are looking at not only the Coastal Road, but in many different areas across the country where we believe that there are clandestine operations, clandestine airstrips.  We continue to monitor those areas with a view to avert the landing of these aircrafts in our country.  And so, yes, we are looking at the Coastal Road and other areas of the country.”

 

The bust on November second was a confluence of chance, vigilance and prior knowledge during an operation led by the police department, the coast guard and the military.

 

Allen Whylie

“Perhaps part of it is a stroke of luck because as I said, we had some intelligence, we did a number of surveillance, we developed that intelligence.  We saw some movements and we established and went into our protocol that we have in terms of when we’re looking at issues of drugs and drug planes and I think a stroke of luck also led us to where we are today.”

 

As to the suspicious boat moored at the Princess Marina, the vessel and its occupants have also been released without charges.

 

Chester Williams

“We were unable to gather any evidence that would create a nexus between those persons and the drugs seized and so those persons were released from custody but the investigation is still ongoing.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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