BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Apr. 21, 2016–Denny Grijalva, his wife Emelda Grijalva and Javier Nunez, the manager of their company, De Mars Stone Company, along with their attorney, Bryan Neal, appeared in the Belize City Magistrate’s Court this morning for a sentencing hearing after the three were found guilty on two charges for the destruction of the ancient Mayan temple of Noh Mul, located in San Pablo, Orange Walk District.
The Chief Magistrate imposed the maximum penalty for the two offences for which the three were convicted under the current law. All together, the Grijalvas, their company and their company’s manager were fined a total of $24,000.
Before imposing the sentence on the three convicted persons and the company, however, the court heard an impact assessment testimony from Dr. John Morris, the Director of the Institute of Archeology, who explained to the court the implication of the destruction of Noh Mul.
Dr. Morris told the court that Noh Mul consisted of several large pyramids and could be described as an ancient temple. One of these buildings was destroyed by the construction company.
Dr. Morris said the temple that was destroyed was used primarily for religious and sacred ceremonies. “From the perception of archeology, the temple was totally destroyed and any cultural information that could be retrieved has been lost,” he said.
“Because of the destruction, we cannot put a monetary value to the loss of this cultural heritage and asset, or to the negative publicity the country of Belize received because of this inability to protect its archeological reserve,” Dr. Morris said. “Having said that, it is my opinion that the loss to Belize is incalculable and it is hoped that such action does not reoccur,” he went on to say.
After Dr. Morris had addressed the court, Neal called two character witnesses who spoke on behalf of Grijalva and his wife.
At the end of the character witnesses’ testimony, Neal apologized to the people of Belize on behalf of his clients.
Denny Grijalva, his wife and Nunez also apologized to the Mayas and the country of Belize for the destruction of the Mayan site, which Dr. Morris told the court was erected about 200 years BC.
Chief Magistrate Smith remarked, “I am very happy to hear an apology, even at this late state. What disturbed me is that they failed to accept responsibility initially.”
For the offense of removing earth from a cultural monument without permission, all three convicted persons were each fined the maximum fine of $1,000. And for the offense of willfully damaging an ancient monument, the maximum fine of $5,000 was imposed on all three and the company.
They have until April 29 to pay the fines; if they default on payment, they will have to serve 6 months in prison.
In May 2013, the country and the international community were shocked when it was discovered that the tallest structure at Noh Mol had been bulldozed and the material used for road filling.