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October 18, 2022
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Caribbean International Brewery wants back 3.1 million dollars seized by police; Senior Counsels battle in court

Posted: Tuesday, October 18, 2022. 6:53 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: It was a battle of former Attorneys General in the Orange Walk Magistrate’s Court, as Caribbean International Brewery Limited (CIBL) seeks the return of $3.1 million seized by police on October 6 and turned over to the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) on suspicion of involvement in trafficking in persons and/or money laundering.

Magistrate Deborah Rogers heard arguments from Senior Counsels Dean Barrow (representing CIBL) and Godfrey Smith (representing the FIU) as to what the money represents and why each side wants it.

For Barrow, he believes the State “recognize(s) they are facing some very serious, not to say meritorious objections” to the taking of the money; for Smith, there is an international dimension: “As you are aware Belize and many countries in the world are put on a list of not taking these things seriously. So, in addition to the regular Belizean domestic landscape, there is also that other landscape where on the international scene, the way you treat with cases of human trafficking is carefully scrutinized and repercussions flow from that.”

But closer to home, Barrow argued that the FIU is out of time on the application, as he tried to elicit from Inspector of Police Gian Young at the Anti Trafficking In Persons Unit on the witness stand. It was his team who found the 3.1 million dollars in two safes: “The inspector admits he did not have any suspicion of money laundering. He thought the proceeds were derived from 14 Chinese being trafficked. There is nothing to show that these people were being trafficked in any event.”

Smith counters that if crime there is, it will be borne out through investigation, and that right now “a reasonable suspicion” of such is all that is needed: “What must the applicant satisfy the magistrate of? Simply that there is reasonable suspicion that the cash is related to a criminal offense. But we feel confident that at the end of the day we will be able to satisfy the magistrate that there was reasonable suspicion, not belief, not proof, reasonable suspicion.”

CIBL, according to Barrow, will have to borrow to stay open as they run a principally cash-oriented business. Smith maintained that the Unit says it is not true, as CIBL claimed, that the business had to stash its cash because banks would not allow deposits of more than $50,000 daily.

The case resumes on Wednesday when another police officer will take the stand. If it finishes on Wednesday, Magistrate Rogers has indicated that she will give her decision by the following Thursday, which reports say will likely be appealed up to the Supreme Court. As for the eight Chinese and one manager who was detained at the factory for immigration offenses – the Brewery’s other attorney, Richard “Dickie” Bradley, got bail for them at the Supreme Court on Friday in the amount of $7,500 each with strict conditions.

Meanwhile, questioned in Belmopan on the implications for his Government, Prime Minister John Briceño said he had to stay out of it: “I can’t comment on a matter that’s in court as you know and I had no idea that they were going to go and do any kind of inspection in that area. That does not come to me. The FIU is totally independent of the prime minister’s office, so I would not comment on something like that.”


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