Twice today, downtown Belize City came to a standstill. The immediate area around the courthouse was cordoned off as five officers were whisked into court for arraignment on drug related charges. The media was kept at bay when the five were taken to court in handcuffs and shackles under heavy police escort. The five have been in custody since November thirteenth when they were intercepted near a plane laden with eighty bales of Colombian cocaine. They already face a charge of unlicensed ammunition and firearm levied at by the Punta Gorda police, but the charges today put them closer to the largest Colombian cocaine haul. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.
Isani Cayetano, Reporting
Five men; four of whom are officers attached to the Belize Police Department were today twice escorted to the Magistrate’s Court in Belize City under heavy security detail where they were read an additional charge in connection with the seizure of two point six tons of cocaine last month.
Local law enforcement authorities had been tipped off about the landing of a twin engine airplane on the Southern Highway near Bladen during the predawn hours of Saturday, November thirteenth. While the pilot and the plane’s contents were not found in the immediate vicinity a team of five, namely: sergeants Lawrence Humes and Jacinto Roches, corporals Renel Grant and Nelson Middleton as well as Customs boatman Harold Usher, was intercepted at the San Juan bus stop along the Southern Highway.
The men were caught traveling inside a white van which contained anti-drug garments, wet suits, car batteries and GPS equipment; all of which were believed to have been used in the landing and unloading of the aircraft.
The men were then taken into custody and escorted to the Punta Gorda Police Station where they were jointly charged for possession of unlicensed ammunition. A fifth officer, Vidal Cajun, had also been arrested and charged for possession of an unlicensed firearm in connection with the incident.
In the wake of the bust the shipment of cocaine, eighty bales valued at a hundred and forty million Belize dollars, was transported from Punta Gorda to Belize City where it was housed at the Raccoon Street Headquarters before being taken to Tower Hill for destruction.
In court today the group, with the exception of Cajun, was additionally charged with abetment to import a controlled drug with the purpose of facilitating the exportation of two thousand, nine hundred and twenty-one kilograms of cocaine. Of note is that of the eighty bales a number of individual bricks are being held as evidence inside the porous exhibit room at the police headquarters to be used in the subsequent case against the officers. The men have since retained legal counsel from attorney Dickie Bradley who was absent from today’s session before Chief Magistrate Margaret McKenzie. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.
The men are to go back to court on February ninth, 2011. On November twenty-fourth, the Hattieville Prison came under attack twice. It is believed that the shooting is connected to imprisonment of the five.