Smiling Meats raided by GSU for drugs. Is ‘old beef’ the cause?
The search started after three and lasted for four long hours until Tuesday night. The Gang Suppression Unit cordoned off the area and rained down on the house and business of Winston Smiling and his son, Mathew on New Road. They meticulously combed the premises, claiming they were looking for drugs. The customers that dropped by were turned away, employees were traumatized and the raid drew a number of spectators. The incident has caused a huge embarrassment for the well-known Smilings who say it’s not good for their reputation and for business. News Five’s Jose Sanchez reports.
Jose Sanchez, Reporting
Smiling Meats on New Road is known for its prime cut meats, but it seems that a tipster led the police to believe that the facility and the house on the second floor may have been used to store drugs. According to Winston Smiling, on Tuesday from three in the afternoon until eight in the night, the premises were raided. He was visibly upset as he spoke to the media during the search.
“They say they have reliable information that we are doing drugs in this meat shop. And as a result they were doing a search. So I say officer I have no problem; feel free tell me what you want sir. And then on second thought I said but only three ah unu? Bring some more police, I want unu do this thing properly. Shortly after a jeep load a police come; bout ten of them. So they started to search. All along the while they were good—I could never complain—until the second GSU took shift. I thick his name was Arzu. He started to act like an a [bleep].”
This afternoon, Attorney Arthur Saldivar was flanked by his clients, Winston and his son Matthew Smiling, as they gave a press conference regarding the GSU search.
Arthur Saldivar, Attorney for Winston and Matthew Smiling
“For the most, people in Belize City and especially in this neighborhood were shocked—not to mention my clients—that they would have been targeted for this kind of treatment; to be searched under the premise that they were in anyway engaged in drugs and business to do with guns and that type of thing. We are talking about Winston Smiling and Smiling Meats—an establishment and a man that has been around for more than fifty years; impeccable in terms of his business acumen and character, he has never had an issue; has never been associated with drugs or firearms in any way. So certainly one will wonder what would have motivated the police, the GSU in particular, to have done what they did. But in so doing, it should never be lost in anyone that they violated the rights of Mister Smiling, his business and the workers that he had here. They were held against their will, falsely imprisoned with the establishment—couldn’t leave—deliveries to the business could not be made. So actual loss occurred and the reputation of this man—a reputation that has been guarded well over the years and that has been cultivated well over the years, is now in question as a result of the actions of the police.”
Matthew Smiling, Devastated by GSU search of Smiling Meats
“It was a shock to me to find that I am still the present U-17 National Team Coach to be treated this way. In respect to the search in the business and my house, for the most part, to me it was done professionally; didn’t have any problems with the officers. But just the fact that they said that they acted on a report that I have a large quantity of drugs in my property; now I am an alleged drug dealer. My reputation has been tarnished. I don’t know who I can turn to now to repair that reputation. Like I said, I am still the Junior National Team Coach; what can I tell these kids now? I’ll be looked upon as an alleged drug dealer. My family now will be looked upon as again an alleged drug dealer’s family. Who can I turn to for answers? Will I get any apology for this?”
The apology, rather redress, will be sought after in the courts.
“Section (5) of the constitution clearly expresses that. There are a litany of precedence that establishes that where a functionary of the state acts outside the scope of his authority and oppresses or intimidates an individual citizen, the state then is responsible; pecuniary responsibility for that action.”
Rowland Parks, Reporter Press
“How would you measure what you just said against the provisions of the police act which enables the police to carry out their functions such as searching and so on?”
“Well, the police act is subsidiary legislation; it comes under the constitution—it doesn’t supersede it. And where the constitution requires reasonable suspicion or probable cause before a person can be arrested or detained; that hurdle must be passed. We are talking again about a man who, for more than twenty years, has been a commissioner of the Supreme Court, a Justice of the Peace. We are talking about his son who is the coach of Under 17 Basketball Team for Belize, who has never been arrested; an athlete of national renown. We really and truly cannot continue to accept the abuses that have been taking place in our society by those who are charged with responsibility to serve and protect.”
“Sir so you will be filing a constitutional claim against the GSU and the Attorney General and the Minister of Police?”
“Certainly, the Minister of Police, the Commissioner of Police. We had the situation where a young lady, one of the staff members in Smiling Meats was so traumatized that she couldn’t control her bowel movements and had to soil herself on the spot. This kinda thing is uncalled for. We can’t have these kinds of abuses taking place.”
“We have friends who would look on it as a very stupid act, but then you would have others who are quick to believe that we are involved in any sort of illegal doing. And I want to say to the nation; not one Smiling has been ever hold and charged for anything like this. As a matter of fact, this old Smiling not even smoke cigarette; I don’t even drink coffee okay. I am a milk man.”
“Mister Smiling, does you or any of your family members have any “beef,” as they call it, with members of the GSU?”
“Not to my knowledge. I noh know if my younger son though; but I doubt it. the police; I have a very good working relationship with the police. I was always there with the police before this GSU came into existence. I could recall I have people in high ranking in the police force who have been calling me from last night; surprised at what took place and claim that they didn’t know anything about it and how it happened.”
Saldivar says he will file his court documents against the police within a week. Reporting for News Five, Jose Sanchez.