BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Dec. 28, 2017– Belizean attorney Andrew Bennett, 46, became the subject of a United States extradition request that was sent to the Belize Ministry of Foreign Affairs some eight days ago, 7News reported tonight.
Today, Amandala spoke with Solicitor General, Nigel Hawke, who would only confirm that the documentation for a US extradition request have been received. Hawke, however, would not confirm the identity of the person whose extradition has been requested; neither would he confirm what the alleged offences are that triggered the US request.
Hawke told our newspaper: “It is a lot of papers and I have not had the time to go through them, so I cannot comment at this time.”
Bennett, who worked as a partner in the law firm of Glenn D. Godfrey, has reportedly been named in a 7-count indictment for money laundering by a grand jury from the District of Puerto Rico. The indictment is dated July 2015.
In its newscast tonight, 7News reported that Bennett was caught in a sting operation, which is another word for entrapment. “The evidence presented in the request paints a very interesting picture where Bennett is caught in the net, but the target seems to be bigger players in the banking sector. It says that in 2013 a confidential informant in Belize told a US Drug Enforcement Agency agent that high level bankers and political figures in Belize were running money laundering operations for drug trafficking organizations through two international banks in Belize by using nested accounts in another international bank, which had a corresponding banking relationship with US banks,” stated the news report.
The report went on to state, “That informant sent an undercover agent to meet with Bennett as an attorney who — allegedly — could launder drug proceeds. The agent reportedly told Bennett that he had represented a Colombian and Puerto Rican drug trafficking organization that needed to launder drug money.
“Bennett allegedly told the undercover agent that he could set up some IBC’s or shell companies to provide a front for laundering drug proceeds. The evidence says he asked for a retainer and followed up with the agent as to when the funds would be coming in.
“They did – in May 2015, when the undercover agent claims he took 250 thousand US dollars in a backpack to a meeting with Bennett at the Riverside Tavern.”
In conformity with the provisions of the US/Belize Extradition Treaty of March 2000 a provisional arrest warrant would first have to be signed by the Chief Magistrate, after the government of Belize has determined that the US has a prima facie case against the requested person, before Bennett could be arrested and brought to court so that the extradition charge could be read to him by Chief Magistrate Sharon Fraser.
If it reaches to that level, Bennett would be remanded to the Belize Central Prison to await his extradition trial, while his attorney or legal team seeks his release through a Supreme Court writ of habeas corpus.
Amandala attempted to speak to Bennett by phone, but we were unable to do so.
The last extradition request from the US involved the Seawell brothers, Mark and Gary Seawell, who beat the extradition request due to procedural flaws in the warrant that was used to imprison them.