BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Oct. 10, 2019– Reynaldo Verde, 46, the Deputy Director of the Belize Tax Service, appeared in the Southern District Court of Florida, where he was denied bail earlier this week.
This means that Verde will remain on pretrial detention in the United States until his case for extortion, interference with commerce by means of extortion, and attempted extortion comes up.
Verde, a senior employee of Prime Minister Dean Barrow’s Ministry of Finance, became the subject of a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) sting operation after American businessman Chris Williams made multiple complaints to them about Verde’s alleged shakedown efforts.
An FBI affidavit, which became public at the hearing, had catalogued the events leading up to the charges that were laid against Verde, who reportedly had made a demand for US$350,000, but only received US $1,000 from Williams. That transaction, the FBI said, occurred at Williams’ place of business, where two FBI agents were present.
Verde had allegedly promised Williams that in exchange for personal payment to him, he (Verde) would make the general sales tax owed by Williams’ development company, Orchid Bay, which operated out of the Corozal District, disappear.
The FBI had wired Williams to gather evidence to make their case against Verde.
On September 7, Verde was returning home from Brussels, where he had gone on official government business, when he was arrested by FBI agents at Dulles International Airport in Washington, and was held for transportation to the state of Florida, which had laid the federal charges against him.
It was initially reported in the local media that Verde may not get a prison sentence. Those reports, however, were unofficial.
The Verde saga has made Prime Minister Barrow criticize US authorities for not allowing personnel from the Belize Embassy in Washington to visit Verde after he was initially arrested.