General — 22 December 2011 — by Daniel Ortiz
Police and Coast Guard report that on Tuesday, December 20, three armed men in a boat held up three different crews of fishermen in the Bluefield Range, south of Belize City.
Police and the Belize Coast Guard have been able to determine that in all three instances, the same group of men used one vessel to commit these robberies, which happened only eight to ten miles apart.
The authorities say that the robberies were committed within three to four hours of each other, which also supports the theory that the culprits are the same.
Gaspar Cantun, 33, a fisherman from the Corozal District, reported to police that he and his crew were aboard his sailing vessel, “Karisha”, in the Bluefield Range, which is about sixteen miles south of Belize City.
Cantun said that at around 5 p.m., they were approached by a white, 15-foot wooden skiff with the name “Flash.” Onboard the skiff were three armed men, who pointed their guns at Cantun and his crew. The men ordered them to abandon the sailing vessel, which they did by boarding their dories.
The thieves then stole Cantun’s sailing vessel, which had eighteen gallons of gasoline, twenty-five pounds of lobster, and twenty-five pounds of conch. The Belize Coast Guard had to rescue the men, who were stranded in their dories.
Police have recovered Cantun’s vessel, but the aforementioned stolen items were missing, along with the vessel’s 40-horsepower outboard engine.
About an hour later, Isauro Perez, 51, a fisherman of Corozal District, became the second victim of robbery at sea.
He told police that at 6 p.m., he and his crew were on his sailing vessel, which had a 40-horsepower outboard engine, in the Bluefield Range, near Alligator Caye.
They were approached by a wooden skiff bearing the name “Flash,” which had a crew of three men, who had their faces covered with rags. They were all armed; they pointed their firearms at Perez and his crew and ordered them to jump into the water.
The men complied, and the assailants stole their marine products and their fuel. The men then escaped, which allowed Perez and his crew to board their vessel and go to Belize City to inform police of the holdup and robbery.
Amandala spoke with Commander Elton Bennett, Acting Commandant of the Belize Coast Guard about the serious nature of these robberies, which happened in the same general area on the seas.
Bennett told us today that there was a third robbery which was reported directly to them, which happened near Spanish Lookout Caye. In this incident, the fisherman/captain was also robbed of his day’s catch and his fuel within two hours after Perez and his crew were attacked.
Bennett said that the Belize Coast Guard and the Police Department have been investigating these incidents. They believe that they are looking for the same group of men, who they believe committed all three robberies. The Coast Guard also believes that it was the same vessel which was used in all instances.
According to Bennett, the vessel “Flash” has been flagged before. He said that a few weeks back, the Coast Guard intercepted the vessel and discovered that the crew was in violation of several fisheries statutes.
Bennett said that it was discovered that the men had large quantities of undersized marine catch, and as a result, they were seized. These men were escorted to court, charged, and fined. Based on their intelligence from the reports made by the three victims, they believe that it is this same crew that has committed these robberies.
Bennett said that the authorities have gathered enough information, and that it is just a matter of time before they locate and arrest the men.