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Magistrate allows documentary evidence against Caribbean International Brewery for $3.1 million held by Financial Intelligence Unit

Posted: Wednesday, October 26, 2022. 11:31 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Senior Counsel Dean Barrow has asked the Supreme Court to give its opinion on the hearing between his clients Caribbean International Brewery Limited (CIBL) and the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU).

Today, Magistrate Deborah Rogers in Orange Walk determined that she would allow the FIU to proceed with certain documentary evidence from the Belize Tax Service in their intervention to keep $3.1 million seized by authorities on October 6 from the CIBL compound on the Philip Goldson Highway, as part of their investigation of alleged criminal activity including money laundering and trafficking in persons.

Senior Counsel Godfrey Smith, attorney for the Financial Intelligence Unit, and former Prime Minister Dean Barrow, attorney for Caribbean International Brewery Limited, returned to the Orange Walk Magistrates Court today but only one left pleased. As Smith stated, “[Barrow] is effectively saying magistrate, you must put this to the Supreme Court. But, in doing this he acknowledges that by the time the Supreme Court hears the matter it can’t be done. By the time you put in all the arguments and have a hearing, a decision, three months will be long, long gone, gone. So, in a sense, as you rightly said, the case is effectively over. FIU wanted to hold on to the cash for three more months so that they can develop their case and they get to do that.”

Following her ruling, Senior Counsel Barrow filed an application for a case stated, to have Magistrate Rogers refer his challenges to the Supreme Court for its opinion on grounds of unconstitutionality. While the magistrate has ruled that the FIU’s application for further seizure was submitted in a timely manner, Barrow contends that his client’s constitutional rights are being violated: “…it is not just that you have to make the application to continue the detention within seventy-two hours. You must get the order for the continued detention within seventy-two hours. The thing makes it plain. You can only hold the cash lawfully for seventy-two hours. Her determining that no as long as you make the order in time, I can take as long as is necessary before I give an order for continued detention, that violates the section of the act and the section of the means what she says it means, that section of the act has to be unconstitutional.”

Barrow averred that proceeding further at the Magistrate level doesn’t appear to be bearing fruit for his client, so he is going above her head to the Supreme Court, by asking to state the case, either here or through the Supreme Court. FIU’s legal counsel has been given until Friday, November fourth, to file its objection to Barrow’s latest application.

However, Smith maintains that the hold should have been only temporary: “The case was simply an application not to seize the company’s cash, merely to hold on to it for three months pending investigation. It was never intended that cases of this sort would [be] blown out of proportion like this. It is not a determination of guilt or innocence or seizure. If at some point down the road you find you have enough evidence, you apply to seize it. This was just to hold on to it for three months.”

 

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