BELIZE CITY, Fri. Jan. 8, 2021– Last week the Belize Police Department raided the family home of former Lands Commissioner Wilbert Vallejos and found over $73,000 in undeclared cash in varying currencies. Vallejos and the adult members of his family who were at home at the time of the search were detained by police and held briefly for questioning.
Shortly after the detentions, the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) took over the investigation and has been engaged in an active investigation since then.
On Thursday, Vallejos attempted to retrieve the cash that was confiscated. Through his attorney, he applied to the Magistrate’s Court in Corozal for the money to be released to him; however, the court denied the application. The court instead ruled to allow the F.I.U. to retain possession of the money until April 2021. This will allow the Police Department the time to conduct a full investigation into the origin of the cash, and if necessary, to levy money laundering charges against Vallejos.
In an interview with local media on Thursday, Commissioner of Police, Chester Williams, said, “I know that yesterday there was a hearing in Corozal Magistrate’s Court where Mr. Vallejos, through his attorney, had applied to the court for the release of the money to him. The court ruled yesterday that F.I.U. can hold the money until April, so it is to give F.I.U. and police the time needed to be able to conduct an investigation to be able to ascertain how Mr. Vallejos may have come into possession of the money.
“If at the end of that investigation he can prove that it came about through legal or legitimate means, then the money will be returned to him. And if the contrary is proven, then it’s a matter for the F.I.U. to prefer charges against him for money laundering or any other relevant offense.”
When asked if Vallejos’ application to the court for permission to retrieve the money could amount to a claim of ownership, COMPOL Williams commented, “Well, if Vallejos is asking that the money be returned to him, that’s an admission that the money belongs to him. So, it’s something that we are looking at, because earlier on, his mother claimed that the money belonged to her; now he is saying that the money belongs to him. So there is already an issue as to who the actual owner of the money is.”
We will continue to follow this story.