BELIZE CITY, Fri. Feb. 2, 2018– Attorney Andrew Bennett, for whom the United States Secretary of State has issued an extradition request to Belize Minister of Foreign Affairs, appeared in the Magistrate’s Court of Chief Magistrate Sharon Fraser this morning, along with his legal team, for the formal verification of the evidence that the US has built against him for the seven counts of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering for which he has been indicted in the US District Court of Puerto Rico by a US grand jury on July 2, 2015.
When the hearing was called to order, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs foreign service officer, Jenina Urbina, took the witness stand and explained to the court that she is in charge of the South America Desk at the ministry and that she received some documents from the United States Government that were authenticated under the seal of Belize Ambassador to the US, Francisco Daniel Guterrez.
There was no objection from Bennett’s lead attorney, Anthony Sylvestre, and the documents, which are often referred to in extradition cases as “the US bundle,” were accepted by Chief Magistrate Fraser.
These are the documents that will be disclosed to Bennett’s legal team for them to comb through so that they could defend him against the extradition request. Unlike most extradition cases so far, however, Bennett will not have to apply to the Supreme Court for a writ of habeas corpus, which would have determined if he is being legally held at the Belize Central Prison, because he was released on $100,000 bail when he was initially arraigned.
In the US bundle of evidence, there is the affidavit of Drug Enforcement Agent (DEA) special agent Joseph Pelz. Pelz said in his affidavit that in November 2013, he met with a “confidential source” who told him that he (the source) could introduce him to high-level individuals in Belize with banking and political connections, who were creating money laundering business through three banks operating in Belize.
Pelz named his confidential source as a Belizean, Ernest Raymond, Jr., who introduced him to Bennett in Belize City. (Raymond himself was charged in another, high-profile money laundering case involving the Coye family, but the charge against him was eventually dismissed.)
Pelz, the documents went on to say, gave Bennett $US 250,000 and Bennett took the money to Sling Shot, an advertising business in Belize City. The movement of the money in Belize City was reportedly carried out under the watchful eyes of some members of the Belize Police Department who are attached to the Anti-Drug Unit.
Bennett was provided with the names of several companies in the US and Puerto Rico to which he should send the monies. The agent confirmed that this was done.
The documents also contained transcripts of several telephone conversations that the agent purportedly had with Bennett, who at the time was employed as an attorney for the law firm of Glenn D. Godfrey.
Bennett’s attorneys are expected to file preliminary objections in writing before the case resumes on February 22. Belize Solicitor General, Nigel Hawke, who under the Extradition Treaty is the prosecutor of the US, is expected to reply to those objections, as the normally lengthy extradition trial works its way through the courts of Belize.