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Apr 24, 2023

Saulus Penner Tells Belize Police Department to Return His Impounded Vehicles

The sensational arrest of seven men, including an off-duty police officer, following a sizeable drug bust in the recesses of Mountain Pine Ridge one year and several months ago, made headlines across the country.  A drug plane crash landed on a makeshift airstrip in the mountainous area, severely injuring the pilot, a Mexican national.  Elsewhere in the wilderness, a consignment of twenty-one bales of cocaine was discovered.  Arrested and charged were Mennonite businessman Saulus Penner and Corporal Eric Young, along with five others.  Tonight, however, Penner is demanding that the Belize Police Department returns a pair of vehicles that were confiscated during the seizure.  Penner says that the police are holding onto the pickup trucks despite an application for forfeiture being rejected by the magistrate’s court.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

In December 2021, businessman Saulus Penner, along with several other men, was taken into police custody, following an anti-drug operation that resulted in the discovery of one thousand, two hundred and seventy-seven pounds of cocaine.  A small, single-engine aircraft piloted by Mexican national Jesus Alberto Quintero Martinez had crash landed on a rough-and-ready runway in the vicinity of Hidden Valley Inn and Reserve.  The large quantity of narcotics that is believed to have been discharged from the drug plane was retrieved from a wooded area deep in the wilderness of the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve.  Six men, including Penner and Corporal Eric Young, were initially arrested.


Chester Williams

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

“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 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 the guns are.  So we believe that his guns were being used by those who were manning the [drugs] as their protection.”


According to Commissioner of Police Chester Williams, the aggressive campaign led by ACP Alford Grinage also yielded a pickup truck believed to have been used in transporting the injured Mexican pilot.


Chester Williams

“Our operations also unearthed a Toyota Hilux, a grey Toyota Hilux which belonged to the wife of one of the Mennonite 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 the 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.”


In the wake of their capture, another vehicle was also impounded at the headquarters of the Belize Police Department in Belmopan.  The limited edition, 2018 Toyota Hilux, seen here, is the property of Saulus Penner.  The other vehicle belongs to his wife, Erika Penner.  Tonight, those pickup trucks are the subject of pending litigation against the BPD.  It succeeds a letter that was sent to ComPol Williams by the law firm of Myles & Banner on the Penners’ behalf back in March.  In that communication, attorney Leeroy Banner writes, “as you are aware, your department made a forfeiture application before the San Ignacio Magistrate’s Court which was rejected.  In her reasons for decision, the learned trial magistrate posited that there was not a scintilla of evidence that the two Hiluxes were involved in any illegal activity and; therefore, that the police cannot confiscate them.  It follows from the magistrate’s ruling that the police has no legal authority to continue to be in possession of our clients’ properties and that they should have been returned to them from the moment the court rejected the forfeiture application”.


News Five reached out to Commissioner Williams for a comment on the matter.  This is what he shared.


On the phone: Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police

“We had made an application to the court under the Misuse of Drugs Act, the provision that deals with the assets forfeiture.  That section speaks to the fact that where any vehicle or vessel is being used for the trafficking or transporting of drugs, that an application can be made to the court for such property to be forfeited.  That matter went before the court in a civil process and the court did not rule in our favor.  And yes, I have since received a letter from Myles & Banner requesting that the vehicles be returned to the owners.  However, I have since denied that request and had directed my legal office to write and inform Myles and Banner that the vehicles will not be returned, as the substantive drug trafficking matter is still before the court for which the mentioned vehicles are exhibits in that particular matter.  Now if it is that they were to be convicted at the substantive drug trafficking hearing then we have another chance to apply to the court under Section 29-1 of the Misuse of Drugs Act for the said assets to be forfeited.”


Penner’s vehicle, purchased with all its accessories, is valued at seventy-five thousand dollars.  The matter involving the landing of the drug plane is still before the court where Penner is being represented by attorneys Richard ‘Dickie’ Bradley and Leeroy Banner. Isani Cayetano for News Five.

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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