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Sep 25, 2019

Reynaldo Verde: Bribes, Demands, Threats & Secret Recordings

Reynaldo Verde

Reynaldo Verde, the Deputy Director of the Belize Tax Services, has been in a U.S. jail since September seventh, on a charge of extortion and attempted extortion. He was picked up by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation at the Washington Dulles airport, as he was making his way back to Belize. Prior to today, there were minimal details on the charges against the senior tax officer. Tonight, News Five has obtained a copy of an eight-page affidavit on the very serious complaint that led to the charge of extortion. In a nutshell, Verde is heard seeking to extort a U.S. investor out of a significant amount of cash to “make that disappear.” This is in reference to taxes. He also offers advice to the investor on how to get around the taxes by forming a new company. What the deputy director did not know, is that the investor had been recording him and had been in touch with the F.B.I.  The process started in 2017 and continued to August 2019 when the last conversation at a meeting with Chris Williams of Orchid Bay Belize was recorded with the F.B.I. in the room.   Here is News Five’s Hipolito Novelo with that story.

 

Hipolito Novelo, Reporting 

“I give you, you give me” – those are the words that senior tax administrator, Reynaldo Verde told a U.S. real estate developer in August 2019. And those are one of the many words and action that has landed the accused in a federal holding facility in the U.S. Verde is accused of interference with commerce by means of extortion and attempted extortion after a criminal complaint was filed earlier this year. This is the affidavit filed by an F.B.I. special agent in support of the criminal complaint. The criminal complaint was made by Chris Williams, C.E.O. of Legacy Global Development, a real estate company which has begun constructing Orchid Bay Resort in Corozal at a cost of eleven point two-five million U.S. dollars. Advertisements targeting US investors were plastered across social media.

Chris Williams

It is alleged that in early 2017 a middle man acting on behalf of Verde contacted Williams requesting a “clandestine meeting to see if Verde could help Williams with allegedly delinquent tax obligations arising from the Orchid Bay Belize project.”  At this point, Williams knew that Verde was Belize’s Assistant G.S.T Commissioner. Verde and Williams met on January nineteenth, 2017, at the Radisson Hotel in Belize City. What was said during that meeting was secretly recorded by Williams.  The F.B.I. has possession of the audio recording. The document alleges that Verde told Williams that a debt of one million Belize dollars was recorded on the Orchid Bay Belize property. While taxes were indeed owed, it was three to seven hundred thousand dollars less than what Verde maintained. It is further alleged that Verde told Williams that a new company needs to be created and registered to transfer all of the unsold Orchid Bay condominium units and villas. If this was not done, Williams would be forced to pay back taxes, and penalties and interest. The investigation into Orchid Bay’s tax liabilities was under Verde’s charge. Verde reportedly told Williams that he could “make that disappear” and the tax investigator could be muzzled. According to the document, Verde then told Williams “I give you, you give me,” and explained that Williams could pay negotiable fifty percent or so. Williams interpreted the meeting as Verde’s demand for a bribe in exchange of using his official government position to eliminate tax issues for Orchid Bay Belize. Verde’s advice to Williams to create a new company was seen as a move to hide past failures to pay taxes, and falsely reducing the amount of any payment to G.S.T.

Williams refused Verde’s offers. But according to the affidavit and recorded messages, persistent Verde reportedly began ‘whatsapping’ Williams, telling him that Orchid Bay’s tax liability now amounted to eight million dollars. Demands were made for Williams to pay Verde four million dollars. In the middle of 2017, “the G.S.T. supervisor pulled one of Williams’ employees, asking where Williams was. The employee told Williams that the G.S.T. supervisor mentioned detainment. In late 2017, the F.B.I. took on the case and on November thirteen, an eight minutes phone called made by Williams to Verde was recorded. The offer was still on the table. Williams proposed a meeting with Verde in Mexico for January 2018. The meeting did not occur because Williams would not pay for Verde’s travel expense. Verde was also afraid to meet in Cancun, Mexico.

In August 2019, a sting operation was conducted at Orchid Bay. Fully wired, Williams met with Verde who entered the establishment with what appeared to be a handgun. Verde told Williams that the tax bill was now six million Belize dollars. Williams was told that he needed to deposit twenty-five percent and then pay rest within twenty-fourth months. Williams was also told that G.O.B. will commence freezing assets if the tax liability is not resolved. Verde was attempted to collect three hundred and fifty thousand dollars in bribe to make Williams’ tax woes disappear. Verde wanted cash and told Williams to find the ways and means to get the money in Belize. Williams and Verde then discussed Williams giving him property instead. At the end of the meeting, Williams paid Verde one thousand U.S. dollars in cash. The F.B.I. collected evidence and waited for the right opportunity to nab Verde.  Reporting for News Five, I am Hipolito Novelo.


Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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