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Dec 15, 2021

Police and Drug Plane Landings, the Year in Review

2021 has been a record year for drug plane landings in Belize.  The past twelve months have also seen a number of foiled operations where narco-traffickers are either busted or the illicit cargo they are attempting to smuggle across the northern border is confiscated.  But it is also a year during which several police officers have also been investigated for their alleged involvement in landing these unauthorized flights.  Since January, we’ve seen quite a few airplanes touchdown on clandestine airstrips, crash land on highways and even plunge into the drink.  Tonight, we look back at some of those stories as well as the purported involvement of well-known police officers in drug activity.


Marco Vidal

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The Belize Police Department is in the throes of a public relations debacle, a situation that is not necessarily unique to law enforcement.  Since the beginning of the year, several officers have been arraigned for their alleged involvement in narco-trafficking activities.  Assistant Commissioner of Police Marco Vidal may not have been part of a circle of rogue cops who facilitated the landing of drug planes in Belize over the past twelve months; however, he is on administrative leave tonight for managerial shortcomings that may have enabled his men to aid and abet the movement of cocaine through the country.


Chester Williams

Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police [File: December 1st, 2021]

“While yes, there is a move to suspend it will be based on administrative failures.  The investigation so far has not unearthed anything to suggest that Mr. Vidal was involved or in cahoots with those persons.  But yes, we have seen where, as the Commander of Operations and the person who was in charge of the COST team, that he could have done certain things to prevent what happened and he did not.  So administratively, he will be held accountable for those.”


…and so will a handful of policemen who stand accused of participating in drug transshipment through Belize.  In retrospect, 2021 has seen a marked number of officers being placed on interdiction after being charged for their purported role in narco-trafficking.


Chester Williams [File: January 29th, 2021]

“I don’t think that we have ever shied away from that.  As a matter of fact, for the past weeks, we have charged a number of police officers for trafficking large amounts of drugs, just that in those cases it was marijuana.  But we know that there are police officers and members of B.D.F. and coast guard who are involved in drug trafficking and the public can see that once it is that these officers manifest themselves, we deal with them.  We are not here to cover for nobody.  You want to go and deal with drugs, you are caught, you will face the consequence of it, no matter where you work and no matter who you are.  It’s as simple as that.”


On the contrary, it has proven seemingly difficult to stick charges on these wayward lawmen.  Many of them, including the narco-eleven, four of whom were officers attached to ACP Vidal’s handpicked strike team are represented by a preeminent criminal lawyer.  Dickie Bradley is Elmer Nah’s counsel.


Richard ‘Dickie’ Bradley

Richard ‘Dickie’ Bradley, Attorney-at-law [File: November 23rd, 2021]

“Corporal Elmer Nah was stopped in the area of Independence Police Station, I think on the highway, returning from Punta Gorda where there was a christening or an event, a family event for which there are dozens of witnesses, he was with his common-law wife and his common-law wife was along with her brother who is the other police officer that I was referring to.  They were stopped, this is two days after the plane had landed and offloaded.”


With a winning streak that has seen several officers acquitted of the charges brought against them, Bradley is no slouch when it comes to defending these accused policemen.  Earlier this year, back in February, Minister of Home Affairs Kareem Musa spoke on the arraignment and likely conviction of several officers who were busted in the vicinity of New River near Lemonal Village.


Kareem Musa

Kareem Musa, Minister of Home Affairs [File: February 2nd, 2021]

“Previously, while we had our suspicions and we gathered evidence and I am talking under the last administration in relation to drug plane landings, it was never so clear-cut.  It might be that you found an officer in particular area and they were saying that they were fishing and they had their fishing lines to prove it and no drugs were found on them, and so it depends on a case by case basis. But I fully agree with you that in this particular case we should see convictions because in this case the drugs were found in the possession.  It’s very rare that you actually get a bust like that.”


Fast-forward to November thirtieth when six men, including a policeman, were busted in Mountain Pine Ridge for purportedly landing a single-engine aircraft stuffed to the gills with cocaine.  He, too, is represented by a well-known attorney.


Bryan Neal

On the Phone: Bryan Neal, Attorney-at-law [File: November 30th, 2021]

“I can share with you that nothing incriminating in terms of what my clients were charged with, they were charged under Section Thirty of the Civil Aviation Act, that they conspired with others to land a plane.  There is no evidence whatsoever in the police possession that I saw would suggest that they were involved in the landing of any plane; nevertheless, they were charged.”


These criminal matters, involving at least twelve policemen, are still before the court pending an outcome.  We note, however, that a tribunal has also been convened to try these cases outside of the judicial system to determine whether the accused officers will remain in the police department. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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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