Melonie Coye’s former attorney, Arthur Saldivar, says he doesn’t have Coye’s $900,000, and hasn’t been paid for years of work
BELIZE CITY—Following a protracted legal battle over millions of dollars that the state had frozen, alleging that four members of the Coye family of Johnson Street in Belize City, the Belize agents for Money Exchange International Limited, had acquired the money as a result of money laundering, attorney Eamon Courtney, S.C., of the law firm of Courtenay & Coye LLP, has confirmed to Amandala this afternoon, Thursday, that he has been instructed by his client, Melonie Coye, to recover almost one million dollars from the Coye’s former attorney, Arthur Saldivar, who is also the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) standard bearer for the Belize Rural North constituency.
Courtenay, who is of the same political party of which Saldivar is a member, the PUP, told Amandala that by tomorrow, Friday, “I will be filing court papers in a civil action against Arthur Saldivar to recover my client’s money.”
Saldivar, on the other hand, told Amandala today that Courtenay’s action is politically motivated – “because they want to remove me as the PUP standard-bearer for Belize Rural North, but I will not be removed,” he said.
When asked to respond to Saldivar’s assertion, Courtenay said: “I am not interested in anything Mr. Saldivar has to say, unless it is to return my client’s money.”
Amandala pointed out to Courtenay that Saldivar told us that he did not get one dime from the Coye’s over six million dollars. And even if he had kept the estimated $900,000, Saldivar told us, it would only be part of his legal fees.
“Good,” Courtenay replied, “let him explain that to a judge.”
Melonie Coye, one of the directors of Money Exchange International, is alleging that when the Belize Court of Appeal unfroze their assets, Saldivar went with her to the Belize Central Bank on June 12 to collect 1.6 million dollars that was being held as exhibit for the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) for the money laundering case.
Melonie alleges that Saldivar left the Central Bank with a suitcase of money, almost one million dollars, that he has not given back to her, even after being ordered to return it by last Friday, August 1, according to a report on Channel 7 news last night.
Saldivar told Amandala, “I am shocked that someone that I stood by and worked so hard to secure her freedom would do such a thing. It’s embarrassing. At the end of the day, I will be vindicated.”
Saldivar said that the Coye’s unfrozen accounts amounted to something in the region of 6.5 million dollars, and that she had agreed to pay him 20 percent of that as legal fees.
He added, “I am sending her my invoice.”
“There is an allegation against me; it has no basis in fact,” Saldivar explained, “it’s irresponsible and malicious; I am the one who stood by them when they had nothing.”
On the morning of December 31, 2008, the life of the Coye’s was dramatically changed when police officers searched their home on Johnson Street and found 1.5 million dollars stuffed in suitcases. Several members of the family were taken into police custody and charged by the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) with money laundering.
Their office, MoneyGram International, a money transfer company that was located at the corner of Central American Boulevard, was also raided by Crimes Investigation Branch and police officers attached to the FIU.
Before the dust had settled, the FIU had begun to build the biggest money laundering case against the Coye family since the Money Laundering Act was passed into law.
The FIU case, however, crashed at the Supreme Court and the Coye’s were exonerated. The FIU, however, would not be outdone, and it filed an appeal and won.
The Belize Court of Appeal ordered a new trial, while the state continued its freeze of the 1.5 million dollars that was found at the Coye’s home and the company’s bank accounts, as the money laundering case meandered its way through the slow judicial process.
The second money laundering trial at the Supreme Court before Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin ended with Melonie and Michael Coye and two of their employees, Athlee Matute, and Dietrich Kingston, being convicted.
Melonie Coye and her father, the late Michael Coye, who died less than a week after he was given bail by the Court of Appeal, pending the appeal case, were given prison time at their last Supreme Court trial before Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin, and were also fined $50,000. The two employees were spared prison time, but were fined $25,000 each.
The Coye’s had appealed their conviction to the Belize Court of Appeal and had won. They were therefore granted bail pending the appeal.
Michael Coye was released from prison by the court before Melonie was. He died less than seven days after regaining his freedom.
When the appeal was finally heard, the Court of Appeal overturned the conviction and quashed the sentence.
We were unable to speak to Melonie Coye. When we checked at her home, we were told that she is presently out of the country.
Arthur Saldivar told us that he is planning to bring his own civil lawsuit over the allegation that has been made against him.
The Coye family money laundering case lasted from December 31, 2008 to June, 2014.
At the outset there were eight persons who were accused of money laundering, but when the case reached its final laps at the Supreme Court, the money laundering charge was only against four accused persons; the others were acquitted as the case made its way through the courts.