Headline — 14 September 2019 — by Rowland A. Parks
Four foreigners remanded for drug plane landing

Police seized 1,341 kilos of cocaine worth approximately US$190 million

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Sept. 12, 2019– On Sunday night, September 8, Belize’s national security apparatus swung into high gear as police and soldiers acted upon intelligence that a drug plane had left Venezuela and that it might be landing somewhere in the country.

The resulting police operations resulted in the nabbing of 6 persons, all foreign nationals, and the plane, with its cargo of 41 bales of cocaine that had landed on the Belize Coastal Road, at about Mile 7 in the southern part of the Belize District.

This afternoon, four out of those six foreign nationals were taken to the Belize City Magistrate’s Court to be arraigned on criminal charges. The other two persons connected to the drug plane are in the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH), where they are being treated for gunshot injuries they sustained when they opened fire on our security forces and a gunfight ensued.

Appearing before Senior Magistrate Tricia Pitts-Anderson were Mexican national Miguel Cruz Meseguer, 69; Ecuadoran national Juan Pablo Larrea Cruz, 43; and Honduran nationals Carlos Humberto Henriquez Gomez, 51; and David Noe Orellana Discua, 30.

The four foreign nationals were all charged with drug trafficking because they are accused by police of attempting to smuggle 1,341 kilos of cocaine into the country.

Belize authorities did not provide a street estimate of the value of the cocaine, but according to the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) National Price and Purity Data for 2016, the price for cocaine in  2016 was $141 per gram for pure cocaine (one kilo is 1,000 grams), which makes the haul worth approximately US$190 million.

Miguel Meseguer and Juan Cruz, who were the pilot and co-pilot who landed the King Air 200 Beechcraft, were jointly charged with abetment to the importation of a controlled drug and landing an aircraft without the permission of the Minister of Civil Aviation.

No plea was taken from the four accused, because their matter will be heard on indictment at the Supreme Court.

None of the accused men was represented by an attorney; the court, however, provided a Spanish language interpreter so that the men could understand the arraignment proceedings. All four of the accused were remanded to the Belize Central Prison until their next court date, which has been set for November 12.

There are a number of areas where the plane could have landed, and according to authorities, they had carefully mapped out all the possible areas around the country where an illegal landing could have taken place.

Shortly after midnight, the joint law enforcement team that was deployed in the vicinity of the Coastal Road, near La Democracia, spotted the plane as it came in low for a landing. The plane was allowed to land on the Belize Coastal Road and its engines shut down, before authorities began to move in.

The traffickers were taken by surprise, but they did not surrender. They opened fire on the law enforcement officers, and the officers returned fire.

In the shootout that followed, two of the traffickers were injured by the lawmen’s fire.

Before the security forces left the scene, they were told that another man was in the bushes, and they discovered him suffering from pellet wounds that he said were inflicted by his own partners.

Eventually, all of the parties involved in the landing of the plane were captured. The injured men were transported to the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital, where two of the men are still being treated, under heavy security.

The aircraft was secured and was later flown to the Philip Goldson International Airport. The cargo of cocaine was transported to the Raccoon Street Police Precinct, under heavy security.

The interception of the drug plane with its cargo and the capture of those responsible for its landing is a major victory for Belizean law enforcement officials, who are often out-maneuvered by the drug traffickers, who usually leave burnt-out airplanes after they have discharged the cargo and fled the scene.

Yesterday, Commissioner of Police Chester Williams told the media, “Police arrested and charged 4 persons, and 2 more will be charged later on, as soon as they are released from the hospital ….”

Commissioner Williams added, “The total weight of the cocaine seized was one thousand three hundred and forty one kilograms (1,341 kilos).”

Commissioner Williams was asked how the persons entered the country. “They came in through the border legally,” Commissioner Williams said.

He was also asked if the illegal airstrip where the plane landed will be destroyed.

The Commissioner said that there is no nexus between the owner of the private property on which the plane landed, and the drug traffickers.

The other two Honduran men who are hospitalized are Allan Yovani Mejia Chirinos, 31, and Norlan Jose Carrasco Lopez, 50.

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