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Dec 1, 2021

How Police Discovered Drug Payload in Mountain Pine Ridge

One thousand, two hundred and seventy-seven pounds of cocaine, packed tightly into twenty-five and a half bales, were seized by a team of police officers deep inside the forests of Mountain Pine Ridge on Tuesday morning.  It followed an intense anti-drug operation to locate the illicit payload when a small drug plane came down hard on an improvised landing strip.  So far, police have rounded up seven men and eighth is believed to be on the lam.  Commissioner of Police Chester Williams, flanked by Commander of Operations, ACP Alford Grinage, detailed the recovery mission and how they came across a wounded Mexican pilot in the Mountain Pine Ridge wilderness.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The Belize Police Department has taken possession of twenty-two bales of Colombia’s finest, retrieved from the wilderness of the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve on Tuesday.  Not too far from where the consignment was discovered was a badly injured aviator who got banged up when the single-engine aircraft he was piloting crash landed on a makeshift runway near Hidden Valley.  Jesus Alberto Quintero Martinez is the seventh suspect to be nabbed, following the landing of another drug plane in the wee early hours of Sunday.

 

Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police

“On Monday, we were able to locate the pilot of the plane, who is a Mexican, and he was severely injured. Apparently suffering from a broken leg and a broken arm. The pilot is admitted in one of our hospitals in this country, I’m not going to say where. Nonetheless, having located the pilot we were able to obtain additional information and we intensified our search.”

 

That recovery effort was led by Assistant Commissioner of Police Alford Grinage.  Along with a team of officers, he scoured a six-mile radius encircling the location of the landing.

 

ACP Alford Grinage

ACP Alford Grinage, Commander of Operations

“We had a plan, we knew what we wanted to achieve and we stayed focus. We couldn’t leave the area because we believe that they would have wanted to remove the cargo from that area, so we had to stay forth and continue our hunt.”

 

After countless hours of hiking the unforgiving terrain, the search party got lucky.

 

Chester Williams

“We spent the night in the pine ridge and yesterday morning, just before midday, Mr. Grinage and his team came upon what we believe was the content of the aircraft which happened to be twenty-two and a half bales of suspected cocaine, amounting to five hundred and fourteen bricks and just over seven hundred kilos.”

 

The discovery of drugs, parceled off individually with the well-known Apple logo displayed on each brick, succeeds the arrests of six men, including Corporal Eric Young, a fellow police officer.

 

Chester Williams

“Our operations also unearthed a Toyota Hilux, a grey Toyota Hilux which belonged to the wife of one of the Mennonites who we believe is involved in the plane landing and is also detained and has been charged in respect to conspiring to land the plane.  That vehicle was found in an area not too far from where the drugs were found.  We also believe that that was the vehicle used to move the pilot from where the plane had crashed.”

 

That individual in question is Saulus Penner.  His vehicle, a late model Toyota Hilux, is impounded at the Belmopan Police Station.

 

Chester Williams

“We have a pretty good idea who is the person who was responsible for manning the drugs and that happened to be the brother of the Mennonite that we have detained.  He is being sought, we have not been able to find him.  And may I also say that the Mennonite who is detained, Mr. Penner, is the holder of two gun licenses and we have not been able to locate his guns and he is saying that he doesn’t know where his guns are.  So we believe that his guns were being used by those who were manning the [drugs] as their protection.”

 

Reporter

“Are you able to say what type of guns he had?”

 

Alford Grinage

“We discovered one nine millimeter pistol from him and he does not know the whereabouts of his pump action shotgun.”

 

Arraigned with him on Tuesday afternoon were five other men who maintain, via their attorneys, that they were in the area on a routine hunting expedition.

 

Chester Williams

“If you are accustomed to hunting in a particular area, it gives you intimate knowledge of the area and you would be an ideal person to be used by these traffickers because you can assist them to maneuver the jungles.  So yes, maybe in the past they were hunting, they were hunters, but on that particular night they were hunting perhaps one thing, cocaine, which they found and abandoned their catch.”

 

According to ComPol Williams, the men also abandoned the injured pilot when they realized that they could not exit Mountain Pine Ridge undetected, considering that they were transporting a wounded person.

 

Chester Williams

“The co-pilot was found not too far from the outlet, the main outlet near the highway which means that they were already trying to take him out of the area but because the checkpoint was there, they could not have, so they abandoned him before the checkpoint.  So what would have been done, they would have tried to walk him through the bushes past the checkpoint, but then the police were able to spot them and he was intercepted.”

 

Quintero Martinez remains under police guard after being transferred to another medical facility where he is receiving treatment for his injuries.  He will be charged for his role in the drug trafficking operation at a later date.  It is believed, however, that another individual who flew the aircraft with him from South America is still at large.

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.


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