Posted: Saturday, February 6, 2021. 11:08 am CST.
By Aaron Humes: This time last week, nine men were detained, including three law enforcement officers, with two bales of cocaine, about 150 pounds, in a boat on the New River Lagoon in Orange Walk District.
Police then came upon a crashed aircraft with another 23 bales of cocaine, then fished three more from the lagoon last Saturday, for a total of 28 bales, just under a ton, of cocaine.
While the accused were seeking bail from the Supreme Court in Belize City, elsewhere police were destroying the cargo worth tens of millions of dollars as a matter of national security.
In a secure if not secret operation (as the press was present), the Police led by Assistant Commissioner for operations Marco Vidal, got the go-ahead from the courts to send the entire find up in smoke. First, it had to be tested by a chemist to confirm that it was cocaine, after which each brick was tossed on a massive bonfire.
ACP Vidal noted that Scenes of Crime personnel took photographs at the time of the initial bust which will be tendered as evidence in a future case, and the reports from those present at Friday’s destruction are also evidence.
As for why the hurry, Vidal confirmed that the speed with which the order came to destroy the drugs was due to a security concern: “… where the drugs were found, it is very close to the border, where we have this major problem with drugs. Further to that, the earlier we can get the drugs, the order for the drugs to be destroyed, it is destroyed. Everything is being followed by a process.”
ACP Vidal was more sanguine about the fate of the officers accused: “… we know that this exists. It exists in all security agencies, so our job is to gather the intelligence and get them when in the act, because anything other than that they will say it is just speculation.” He added that police will not spare their own in these situations with the national security at stake.
The drug destruction finished at 1:00 pm Friday afternoon. Journalist and talk show host, Louis Wade from Plus TV, acted as a sort of official witness to the destruction. He had to stay for the entire afternoon to witness all those bricks of cocaine completely burn.
But the men accused of involvement – Tyrell Talbert, Byron Claire, Steve Rowland; Garrett Banner, Fitzgerald Claire, Marlon Reyes, Edward Reneau, Dwight McFadzean, and another unnamed defendant appeared virtually before Justice Antoinette Moore and secured bail.
They have been jointly for possession of a controlled drug with intent to supply and breach of curfew, to which they all pleaded not guilty. Their attorneys, Richard “Dickie” Bradley and Leeroy Banner made the application on their behalf, and since Crown Counsel Romy Wade did not object, the judge granted them bail in the sum of $20,000 each.
The bail comes with the conditions that they must surrender their travel documents, and they must not leave the country without the express permission of the court. Also, they must report to different police stations once a week until their case is disposed of.
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