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Mar 9, 1999

Drug money found at airport

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Many of us who travel abroad return with cassette players, stereos or other electronic equipment that was so reasonably priced abroad we simply couldn’t pass up the deal. But one Belizean apparently checked in more than just a new color TV set with his luggage. Now he’s facing some stiff penalties.

Thirty-eight year old Austin Wright looked unconcerned as he was escorted across to Magistrate’s Court to face a number of charges after he is suspected of bringing in one hundred and nine thousand, two hundred and eighty U.S. dollars through the Philip Goldson International Airport. The money was neatly packed inside a 19 inch Zenith television set which was not declared and left abandoned at customs. Police say they do not believe the story Wright told them about how he got the package.

A.I.P. Eli Salazar, C.I.B.

“He is claiming that someone gave him the television in the United States to bring it to Belize to a person who does not exist as far as we are concerned.

Police strongly believe that the money was destined for the Belize District and would have been used in the drug trade. According to Assistant Inspector of Police, Eli Salazar, who is in charge of the investigation, even before Wright left Belize over a week ago, they had received a tip informing them of the purpose of Wright’s trip and so they were waiting for him when he returned on Saturday.

A.I.P. Eli Salazar

“Police officers were on an operation at the Philip Goldson International Airport awaiting his arrival and when he came off the plane he only declared one piece of luggage which he was carrying as his carry-on luggage and upon seeing this we knew that he did not declare everything that he had brought because we had intelligence that he also had booked a box at the Chicago airport.”

Once he passed through customs, Wright got into a taxi, but was intercepted at a police checkpoint on the airport road.

A.I.P. Eli Salazar

“He has since been charged with failing to comply with requirements of the customs law relating to goods entered by him. Knowingly concerned in the fraudulent evasion of the laws and restrictions of the customs relating to the importation of goods, making a false declaration and knowingly concerned in the fraudulent evasion of custom duties.”

Police say while they do not know Wright, who is a contractor of Mirage Road in Ladyville, to be a drug dealer, he is known to associate with well-known drug dealers. Wright was offered fifty thousand dollars bail but up to newstime was unable to come up with the money.

Salazar told News Five the money was most likely a payment for a shipment of drugs already sent or for an upcoming supply.


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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