PM Barrow says Belize’s Embassy officials were denied a visit to Reynaldo Verde, Deputy Director of the newly-created Belize Tax Service, who was in lockdown in Warsaw, Virginia.
BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Sept. 19, 2019– The Deputy Director of the newly-created Belize Tax Service, Reynaldo Verde, was arrested on Saturday, September 7, by US agents as he transited on his way home from attending a tax conference in Brussels on behalf of the Government of Belize.
A Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) press release on Monday, September 9, explained that Verde was arrested for extortion and attempted extortion.
US authorities, however, denied the high-ranking Belizean civil servant a visit from officials of the Belize Embassy in Washington. It is usually a basic courtesy extended to embassy officials in respect of persons in the custody of law enforcement of another country. This courtesy was not extended to Belize.
Today, following his press conference, Prime Minister Dean Barrow was asked if he has any update on Reynaldo Verde, who remains in lockdown in the US. Verde is an employee in the Prime Minister’s Ministry of Finance.
This was Prime Minister Barrow’s response: “Well, we still have not seen the details of the charges; we’re told that it will be available on some website. Look, I don’t know what the circumstances are.
“What I can say is this: the United States authorities have not acted in a way that the Government of Belize finds satisfactory. Indeed they have acted in a way that should form the basis of some kind of complaint on our behalf, nothing to do with detaining this man, nothing to do with charging this man. It has to do with the fact that the rules of committee, the rules of the relations between states recognize and accept that each country is entitled to seek to protect its nationals.
“In the case of Mr. Verde, when he was detained and the Embassy of Belize found out, officials from that embassy attempted to see Mr. Verde and were denied what is a well-established, international obligation, as far as I am concerned, on the part of the United States. If they want to tell you it’s something to do with the Patriot Act, but no, this is some allegation of extortion.
“So a regular, almost garden-variety type of criminal offense, how on earth can the government of the United States, supposedly one of the greatest upholders of the rule of law in the universe, deny Mr. Verde the right for his consular and embassy officials to have access to him?”
Verde remains incarcerated in Warsaw, Virginia, and is expected to be extradited to the Southern District of Florida, where he has been indicted on extortion charges.
Prime Minister Barrow told the media that Verde was finally allowed a visit from embassy officials last Thursday.
PM Barrow added, “They finally allowed personnel from the embassy to see him, I think like maybe the Thursday. Admittedly, the embassy was able to maintain telephone contact with him. But I find it deplorable that not only was the embassy not given any information pursuant to their requests, which requests were grounded in their obligation to try to look after the welfare of a citizen of Belize.
“Not only were they denied the requests to see and talk to Mr. Verde; they were even denied requests for information. When they knew what it was that Mr. Verde was being charged with was when the FBI or the US authorities chose to issue a public statement.
“My God, man, we have an obligation to all our citizens and furthermore, Mr. Verde is innocent until proven guilty. So I, for my purposes, I am not going to get into the merits or otherwise of the charges against him, but I do complain bitterly about the fact that he was not, or the Government of Belize, and therefore Mr. Verde, we both were disrespected by this failure, this refusal on the part of the U.S. authorities to allow our consular personnel to have access to Verde until way down in the week after he was detained on the weekend.”