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Sep 1, 2008

Major bust by Customs yields 10 million pills of illegal drugs

Story PictureIt is a major bust by law enforcement agents which involves the confiscation of illegal drugs fake whiskey and cigarettes. And today’s haul, the fourth for this year suggests that Belize is a transshipment point for illicit drugs heading north. What triggered the find by authorities was an attempt by a group of men, believed to be armed, who last Friday night pounced on the Customs compound and tried to gain access to a container that had recently arrived from Europe. Customs and police had been on alert for days after a tip from the U.S. that the cargo was on its way to Belize. The container, according to Comptroller of Customs, Gregory Gibson, contained over ten million pills with the illegal drug Ephedrine, a chemical substance used to manufacture Meth Amphetamine or Crystal Meth, a highly addictive drug in great demand on the U.S. market. Late this evening Gibson, flanked by Commissioner of Police, Gerald Westby and Assistant Commissioner, Crispin Jeffries, held a news briefing detailing what transpired and how they intend to address the weaknesses in the customs surveillance systems. Gibson said that the investigation is four prong, involving Customs, Police, Belize Defence Force, and U.S. Embassy.

Gregory Gibson, Comptroller of Customs1
“On Friday night at around ten p.m. Port security informed both the police and customs of an attempted breach of the compound in an attempt to get at a container. Immediately a quick response from the police and the customs arrived at the Port compound and noted a container that was apparently of interest. The compound was secured properly and in the following morning a check of the container was conducted. This container revealed six hundred and four boxes of assorted medicaments. Of particular interest was the discovery of over ten million pills; ephedrines consigned to a company in the Corozal Free Zone. Since then that shipment has been secured and investigations are continuing. It was consigned to a Monte Cristo Company in the Free Zone and it was coming from Europe.”

Gerald Westby, Commissioner of Police
“We are collaborating with our counterparts from the neighbouring country and it sufficed me to say, without going into any specifics, that we got a report, information that some of the substance from the other shipments that got lost may have surfaced in one of the neighbouring countries. So again, we are collaborating and today we have formed a task force and a special investigating team, led by Assistant Superintendent Fuentes who has had some level of expertise in this field. We are looking at getting, if necessary from the D.A., to get somebody technical to assist us with the investigation because certainly, it is of great concern to us and we need to get to the bottom of it.”

Marion Ali
“This is the fourth time that you have become aware of such an incident. Do you think that there are more times when it has occurred and it has not come to your knowledge … it has just slipped through?”

Gregory Gibson
“We have no evidence to indicate that is the case. We have gone to believe that is a possibility and maybe willing to concede that Belize in the past has been used as a transhipment point and so that is a possibility.”

Marion Ali
“That the perpetrators knew exactly when to pounce, which container in particular to target. Does that indicate to you that it might have involved some of your own people and what are they doing about that?”

Gerald Westby
“Well, that is why we—from our indication it would appear that the container was clearly marked because it would have been like looking for a needle in a hay stock otherwise than that. I agree with you, good question and that is why we are conducting a thorough investigation. It is a multi-agency task force comprising of police, customs, and whosoever else we need to incorporate into it.”

The container in question has since been transported to Price Barracks in Ladyville where B.D.F soldiers are keeping guard of its contents. According to our research, each pill contains point one gram of ephedrine, which is estimated at around U.S. twenty-five dollars per pill.

Ephedrine was not the only seizure for today, and during the conference, Gibson revealed that a detailed operation conducted recently resulted in the interdiction of forty cases of whiskey that was not declared and two containers of Marlboro cigarettes invoiced as slippers. While the goodies have been seized, no one has been arrested.

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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