Tonight the BDF's Headquarters at Price Barracks is a crime scene under intense scrutiny after 42 guns were stolen last night.
The only good news is that not all of the weapons were working, but seven M4 Carbine rifles and eleven 9 millimeter pistols are working, and tonight they are unaccounted for and most certainly in the hands of criminals.
It is a deeply disturbing development - and the grim discovery was made this morning at Price Barracks in Ladyville at what is known at a building known as the weapons bulk store which is at the rear of the facility.
How did the force that is supposed to protect our country prove to be unable to protect even their own guns? Those are the questions they had to face at a late evening press conference today:
Lt. Col. Javier Castellanos - 2nd In Charge of BDF "Our initial investigations have revealed that a total of 22 times M-16 A-1 rifles, which are unserviceable, 2 times M4 commando rifles, also unserviceable, 11 times 9 millimeter Beretta pistols, which are serviceable, and 7 times M4 carbines which are serviceable, they are reported missing from the weapons bulk store, which gives a total of 44 weapons missing, being 31 of them, rifles, and 11 pistols. Of these 7 of the rifles are serviceable, and 11 pistols are serviceable. The facility lies within one of the sectors which is patrolled, a 24 hour vigilance, within the sector, but not exactly 24 hours to the facility itself. This weapon bulk store is used mostly to store unserviceable weapons, and in this case, weapons which are not issued to the regular units, which are about to be issued - secured there prior to being issued to the particular unit which will receive this weapon."
Marisol Amaya - KREM News "I was told that some of those weapons are new - particularly the 9 millimeters."
Lt. Col. Javier Castellanos "Yes, as I said, it is used to store weapons prior - when we receive them, they are taken there, put on a ledger, accounted for, and then issued out to a unit."
Allen Whylie - CEO, Ministry of Defense "The visit to the building revealed that two of the locks are missing, and the hasp and staple, were cut. And so, entry was gained into 2 of the 5 rooms. The weapons were kept within those rooms, and they were under lock-and-key with a chain; the chain was also cut, and the weapons were removed. So, entry was made into the building forcibly, not by use of the key. The building has a perimeter fence; the fence was not intact. There is hole at the back of the fence. I don't know if that occurred as a result of the persons gaining entry."
Lt. Col. Javier Castellanos "With regards to the security of this installation, as in any installation, security is an expensive venture. Security comes in layers. It depends on how much you have to spend - the finance - and it's an installation that we took over from the British Forces. To date, it has not been properly surveyed. There are areas in this camp which have been breached before. Civilians enter. It's difficult to keep them out. We have the swamps - the marshes - to the back. We have the fences which deteriorate over the years. It's an expensive venture. It is difficult to patrol and secure the perimeter of the fence."
Jose Sanchez - Channel 5 News "With the evidence that you've explained and provided, are you willing to at least admit that clearly there has to be some sort of collusion from within the compound, from the BDF itself?"
Allen Whylie - CEO, Ministry of Defense "Well, it's difficult for me to say that at this preliminary stage. It's obvious that any soldier, any ex-soldier, will know that weapons are stored at that facility. So I cannot say at this point in time that there had to be collusion within the BDF. It is known from within."
Inspector Hilberto Romero - 2nd in Charge, CIB Belize City "We are now conducting our interviews and recording statements, but at this point, we are not leaving anything - we have no specific leads, however, we are looking at all angles to see who are the perpetrators of this crime. And hopefully, we will have more information as the investigation unfolds."
Allen Whylie - CEO, Ministry of Defense "It is a serious breach that has occurred because this is a military facility, and such (a thing) should not have occurred. That is as far as I would go in terms of assigning the blame."
At the end of the press conference no one was able to say when last the facility was checked - only that it is checked once a week and that it was discovered this morning.
So, to recap, 7 working rifles and 11 working pistols were stolen, along with 24 unserviceable rifles.
No one has been detained and there are no suspects at this time...
The mean streets of Belize City may have more to add to its arsenal, which already includes fragment grenades stolen from security forces. A cache of high-powered weapons has been stolen from the Belize Defense Force headquarters at Price Barracks in Ladyville. It’s a huge and brazen heist, in fact one of the biggest at the B.D.F. that totaled forty-two weapons including M-16, M-4 carbines and Beretta brand pistols. Two rooms within the B.D.F.’s weapons storehouse at the original Price Barracks in Ladyville were burglarized sometime last week. The B.D.F. only conducts a weapons check of the particular storehouse once a week so the robbery was detected today. Was it an inside job? That’s what News Five asked the Deputy Commander of the B.D.F. at a press conference late this evening.
Col. Javier Castellanos, Deputy Commander, B.D.F.
“Our initial investigations have revealed that a total of twenty-two M16 A1 rifles which are unserviceable, two M4 commander rifles also unserviceable, eleven nine millimeter berretta pistols which are serviceable and seven M4 carbine rifles which are serviceable. And they are reported missing from the weapons bulk store which gives a total of forty-two weapons being thirty-one of them rifles and eleven pistols. Of these, seven of the rifles are serviceable and eleven pistols are serviceable.”
“The storage facility where the weapons are kept, my understanding is that that is something that is traditionally kept under 24hour guard. Can you please explain how the facility is guarded?”
Col. Javier Castellanos
“The facility lies within one of the sectors which are patrolled—a 24hour vigilance within the sector, but not exactly 24Hours to the facility itself.”
“How was access gained? How long did it take you since your last check that these weapons are gone?”
Col. Javier Castellanos
“It is as a result of a routine check at the facility. The checks; physical check of the facility and its entirety and items inside this facility are conducted officially on a weekly basis.”
Allen Whylie, C.E.O., Ministry of Defense
“The visit to the building reveal that two of the locks are missing and the horse and staple was cut and so entry was gained into two of the five rooms. The weapons were kept within those rooms and they were under lock and key with a chain and the chain was also cut and the weapons were removed. So entry was made to the building forcibly; not by use of the key.”
“With the evidence that you’ve explained and provided, are you willing to admit that clearly there has to be some form of collusion from within the compound, through the B.D.F. itself?”
“Well it’s difficult for me to say at this preliminary stage. It’s obvious that any soldier, any ex-soldier would know that weapons are stored at that facility. So I cannot say at this point in time that there had to be collusions within the B.D.F.”
“Are the patrols always conducted at the same time?”
Col. Javier Castellanos
“The patrols conducted are staggered; it’s not a routine set format. It is a sector which is patrolled, but is not a particular route they would take in that specific area.”
“So the thieves would have to be someone or some people that know what the patrols would have been to escape with the weapons?”
Col. Javier Castellanos
“May be a possibility.”
To demystify the military jargon, serviceable weapons are weapons that are operable and can be fired; unserviceable weapons according to the deputy commander, cannot fire.
But in addition to a police investigation, the B.D.F. and its ministry is also offering the public a handsome reward for any information that can lead to the recovery of the weapons. Allen Whylie, the C.E.O. in the Ministry of Defense says that the ministry will give thirty thousand dollars for the recovery of these weapons.
Allen Whylie, C.E.O., Ministry of Defense
“There is a criminal investigation being done by the police. The Belize Defence Force is also doing their own internal investigation. The Minister has order a court of inquiry to also see where if any errors were made and what we need to do to ensure that a reoccurrence does not occur. It’s a serious breach of security in terms of the burglary that had occurred and the weapons are out there on the streets. The government has authorized a reward of thirty thousand dollars to be offered for the recovery of these weapons—no questions asked. The stationary guards are there—that is already in place—we are looking at the lighting situation, the fence will be repaired, we will also be looking at the surveillance cameras as you’ve said—I’ve also taken note of that. Those are things that we will be working on actively. We will be changing the format in terms of the security of the doors—additional security features will be placed on the doors.”
Hilberto Romero, C.I.B.
“Well C.I.B. commenced an investigation this morning concerning this report and we are conducting now interviews. But at this point we are not leaving anything. We have no specific leads; however, we are looking at all angles to see who are the perpetrators of this crime and hopefully we will have more information as the investigation unfold. But at this time, we have no specific information as to who is actually involved with this incident, but as the investigation unfolds then we will have more information regarding it.”
Burning questions still remain including why twenty-four hour guards are not used at weapons storage areas. On January eleventh, 2010 an M-4 Carbine was also stolen from the B.D.F., but the recent robbery is by far one of the most daring to the security forces.
$30,000 reward for info on huge arms heist at Price Barracks
Ministry, BDF and police personnel
The Ministry of Defense called a press conference at Price Barracks on Wednesday evening to inform the media that there was a security breach at the Price Barracks compound and a number of small arms and high powered rifles were stolen.
Allen Whylie, Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Defense, said it is a devastating breach and the Ministry will leave no stones unturned to get to the bottom of the heist. The discovery was made at about 10:20 a.m. on Wednesday, October 12th, during a visit to the building by Belize Defense force personnel. It was discovered that two of the five weapon bays were broken into. The hasp and staple with padlocks had been cut and weapons were missing. The Ministry was informed at about 11 a.m. and the incident was reported to the Belize Police Department. Teams were dispatched from Ladyville and Belize City to respond to the scene of the crime and initial investigations revealed that (22) twenty-two M16 A1 rifles, (2) two M4 Colt Commando Rifles, (11) eleven 9 mm Beretta Pistols and (7) seven M4 Carbine rifles were taken. The M-16 and M4 Colt Commando rifles are labeled unserviceable; meaning some can only be used for parts and others would take an expert’s service to repair. However, the pistols and high powered M4 Carbines are serviceable and could be used.
The weapon bays are used to store unserviceable weapons or weapons that are being prepared for distribution. It is all the way to the back of the compound and inspections are conducted on the bays weekly. BDF personnel did not confirm a time frame between the last inspection of the bays and the time the breach was discovered. Such a daring burglary leaves many to suspect that it was an inside job or, at the very least, the culprits had to be familiar with the compound. Whylie chose not to speculate on whether it was an inside job or not. He did lay out the measures taken to get to the bottom of it. The Crimes Investigation Branch of the police department will conduct the criminal investigation and the BDF will also conduct an internal investigation. The Minister of Defense, Hon. Carlos Perdomo, has ordered that a Court of Inquiry be commissioned. The law enforcement officers are also calling on the public to help with the investigation in order to get the weapons off the streets. A reward of $30,000 is being offered by the Government of Belize for information leading to the recovery of the weapons.
Whylie said that several measures have been taken to ensure such a breach never happens again. The weapons bay will be secured 24 hours a day by soldiers of the force. Additional locks will be placed on the doors of the bays. Camera surveillance will likely be installed and the rear fence of the compound will be repaired and strengthened. More measures will be revealed upon the completion of the Court of Inquiry. Anyone with information leading to the recovery of the weapons is asked to call the Crime Stoppers hotline at 922 TIPS or call confidential numbers at 610-5905, 610-3948 or 600-7060.
MINISTER OF DEFENCE SAYS BREACH OF BDF ARMORY DISHEARTENING
Investigations continue into the theft of a large number of weapons from the Belize Defence Force. Yesterday, BDF and Police officers accompanied by Ministry of Defence Chief Executive Officer, Allen Whylie, broke the news to reporters at the BDF headquarters in Ladyville. In total, forty two guns, some of them high caliber weapons, were stolen from the armory. The breach was only discovered sometime around eleven o’clock yesterday morning, but as the officials admitted, the burglary and theft could have happened anytime between last Tuesday when the last inspection of the armory was conducted and yesterday morning when the break-in was discovery. Some of the guns are unserviceable, which means that in their current state they cannot be used, but can be fitted to bring into commission again. Love News got a response from the Minister of Defence Carlos Perdomo about the theft of the weapons. In an extended interview with Love FM’s Patrick Jones, Perdomo says while the investigation is in its early stages, he believes that the burglary may have been committed with the assistance of persons within the BDF and that no stones will be left unturned to bring those responsible to justice.
Carlos Perdomo – Minister of Defence “It was very disheartening, very disturbing, it’s a very terrible situation. We immediately dispatched the Ministry personnel to BDF Camp to help with the investigation but it is kind of disheartening and we have to get to the bottom of it.”
Patrick Jones - Reporter Minister I have seen the room where the weapons were kept, that doesn’t seem to be a place adequate to keep something as important as those high powered weapons, what do you have to say about that?
Carlos Perdomo – Minister of Defence “Well it has been traditionally used, now that we have this breach we really have to rethink, that has always been the storage area.”
Patrick Jones - Reporter I understand there was no guard posted at the room per say, hindsight is always twenty twenty but should there have been better security for the weapons for the BDF?
Carlos Perdomo – Minister of Defence “I am definitely sure that they should have had better guarding, but that is what we are looking at all the safeguards that were not in place, we are looking at the checks and crosschecks usually that the BDF does. That is why it is disheartening because usually the BDF is pretty good but we have to investigate what were the lapses, what were the things missing, what were the things that were not in place, or they did not execute properly so we are in the middle of that. The Police are helping us, we are looking at trying to find the criminals but at the same time the BDF is doing a review of what lapses occurred in their own supervision, or in their own guarding or in their own movements or in their own checks and crosschecks.”
Patrick Jones - Reporter Minister given the current prevailing crime situation, how do you assure a frightened community that these weapons intended for the military won’t be used against them?
Carlos Perdomo – Minister of Defence “It is hard to answer that question. I just know that we are very worried and that is why we are not leaving any stone unturned to try to get back the weapons, that is our prime mission right now, we are trying very hard to talk to people, to interview people and try to get them back to the BDF.”
Patrick Jones - Reporter Minister who should be held responsible for the theft of these weapons from the BDF?
Carlos Perdomo – Minister of Defence “It is hard to tell at this time, it will have to be some senior officers, it might have to be the supervisory element, but that will come out as we dig deeper.”
Patrick Jones - Reporter Is this an inside job or done by civilians with the help of inside persons in the BDF?
Carlos Perdomo – Minister of Defence “Well we are trying to establish that but trying to make a judgement definitely some kind of inside help had to be given but we will come to a clearer decision once we can clarify all the interviews that are taking place now.”
Patrick Jones - Reporter 42 weapons missing from the armoury, what assurance can you give us now that the remaining weapons for the BDF are safe?
Carlos Perdomo – Minister of Defence “As you said hindsight is a good teacher so we already have a new order in place to ensure that this does not happen again, we are trying to beef up the security around that building, we are going to put more lights, we are thinking about cameras and revisit the force orders that are used to supervise in the night and the day around that area.”
The Mystery Of The Missing Guns: Lost Of Questions, No Answers
Tonight, there is still no accounting for the 42 firearms stolen from the BDF. In fact, no one can even say with certainty exactly when they were stolen. We can only say that it was discovered yesterday morning.
We do know that seven BDF personnel were detained, statements were collected from them and they were released.
But, how such a colossal lack of vigilance could have occurred is a question that still has us shaking our heads tonight.
Jules Vasquez went back over the details given to the media at a press conference yesterday evening - to see in just how many breakdowns there were:...
Jules Vasquez Reporting
The is one of the staples that was very precisely and cleanly cut off - the other was cut in the same way - both taken off most likely with a hacksaw.
Weapons are stored in all five rooms - and each compartment has its own metal door.
The bulk weapons store building has five doors - the first and third were breeched and the thieves helped themselves to a trove of weapons:
Allen Whylie - CEO, Ministry of Defense "The weapons were kept in those rooms and they were under lock and key with a chain and the chain was also cut and the weapons were removed."
Lt. Col. Javier Castellanos - 2nd In Charge of BDF "Our initial investigations have reveal that a total of 22 x M-16 A1 Rifles which are unserviceable, 2 x M-4 Commando Rifles also unserviceable, 11 x 9mm Beretta Pistols which are serviceable and 7x 4 M-4 Carbine Rifles which are serviceable and they are reported missing from the weapons bulk store which gives a total of 42 weapons missing being 31 of them rifles and 11 pistols. Of these 7 of the rifles are serviceable and 11 pistols are serviceable. This weapon bulk store s used mostly to store unserviceable weapons and in this case weapons which are not issued to the regular units or which are about to be issued, they are secured there prior to be issued to the particular unit."
All that hardware in a building located 10 feet from an ungaurded gate - which is usually closed - but one which does not have any barbed wire - and is not guarded around the clock - although - almost to mock their own ineptitude, soldiers were diligently guarding the breeched door yesterday - talk about closing the stable door after the horses have bolted!
Lt. Col. Javier Castellanos - 2nd In Charge of BDF "The facility lies within one of the sectors which are patrolled. A 24 hour vigilance within the sector but not exactly 24 hours to the facility itself."
Allen Whylie - CEO, Ministry of Defense "Of course on the ground security measures have now been implemented to step up to ensure that it does not re-occur. It has already occurred - we are trying to now ensure that there is no reoccurrence and measures have been put in place. 24 hours physical security is now implemented at the facility. That will remain in place until."
And while the gate is right there - there's also a hole in the fence - though no one knows for sure how the burglars got in.
Allen Whylie - CEO, Ministry of Defense "There is a hole at the back of the fence, I don't know if that occurred as a result of the persons gaining entry but those things have been improved."
And they also can't say when they got in - below the mic you can hear them mumbling to each other if anyone has the date:
Lt. Col. Javier Castellanos - 2nd In Charge of BDF "As we have mentioned earlier that a weekly check is conducted."
So who has the guns and where are they?
Allen Whylie - CEO, Ministry of Defense "We don't know who stole them. We don't know what the purpose of stealing them is. We don't know if the cartel people are involved. We don't know at this stage. Hopefully the investigation will lead toward some direction in terms of why they were stolen and those sorts of things."
And so who is to answer for this unforgiveable breach of security - well the BDF just threw up their hands, as in these things happen, no money noh deh:
Lt. Col. Javier Castellanos - 2nd In Charge of BDF "There are areas in this camp which have been breached before. Civilians entered. It's difficult to keep them out. We have the swamps - the marshes to the back, we have the fences which deteriorate over the years - it's an expensive venture. It is difficult to patrol and secure the perimeter of the fence."
So there it is, the army can't guard their own guns - but still no blame has been assessed
Allen Whylie - CEO, Ministry of Defense "It is a serious breach that has occurred because this is a military facility and such should not have occurred."
To recap, Twenty four of the weapons were not in working condition, while 18 were brand new.
Again, as we note din the story, no one could say with certainty when last the store-room was checked, but reliable information to 7news is that it was most recently checked on Monday, the 10th. October. Previous to that, it had not been checked from the 29 September, which would be a lapse of more than a week, - 11 days actually.
VIDEO: Patrick Jones has a frank discussion with Minister Carlos Perdomo
On Thursday, October 13, Love TV’s Patrick Jones sat down with Minister of Defence Carlos Perdomo to talk about the theft of 42 high-powered weapons from the armoury of the Belize Defence Force. Here is the unedited interview which was conducted at the minister’s house in Belize City.
Security at the headquarters of the B.D.F. was breached last week. It was a stunning revelation that has brought disrepute to the force. Forty-two weapons, including seven M-4 carbine rifles were stolen from the armory at the weapons bulk store and these are surely to end up in the dangerous streets. The date of the burglary is not known because the armory was not checked as scheduled and security measures are seriously lacking. It was alluded that there was collusion, but that was not confirmed when the Ministry’s C.E.O., Allen Whylie, gave a press conference when it was detected that the arsenal was missing.
News Five has seen copies of two reports: one from C.E.O. Whylie to Minister, Carlos Perdomo, dated October thirteenth and the other from the CIB to the Commissioner of Police. Whylie asks that his report be destroyed for fear of it “getting out.” It is based on the CIB report of the previous day, October twelfth. Whylie says that entry to the compound was from a hole made in the chain link fence situated in the back where trees and shrubs have taken over. This was not established at the press conference. He asserts that entrance to the warehouse was gained by cutting both hasp and staples that locked two of the five doors. Furthermore, three of the four main lights on the lamp post surrounding the building and the senor lights were not operable. That aside, there was a major breakdown in who was responsible for the accounting of the weapons. Captain George Link was scheduled to work on September twenty-eighth to October fourth, 2011. He did not report as force field officer because he was commanding officer and no one was named to replace him. According to Whylie, the Force Field Officer when the weapons were discovered missing was Captain Damian Amaya who was scheduled to work from October seventh but when he reported to duty there was no one to hand over to him. Another travesty is that Roy Flores, the warrant officer, who is the only one authorized to check the weapons, claimed he was too busy to carry out the check. The long and short is that the weapons were not checked for a period of twelve days; the last check was on September twenty-eighth by Captain Garcia. Whylie, however, reports that Garcia the technical quarter master sergeant claimed that on October seventh, the weapons were accounted for and that another check was made on the eleventh. But in the case of the eleventh, there was no corroboration because no one signed for the keys.
Whylie recommends the suspension of technical quarter master sergeant, Roy Flores, the force field officer Damain Amaya and the deputy commandant of the force, Javier Castellanos. He also recommends strengthened security. According to inside sources, no investigations have taken place within the B.D.F. in respect of the CIB’s findings.
Former B.D.F. corporal sought in connection to missing cache of high powered weapons
Belize City police are tonight looking for one person, a former Belize Defense Force corporal, in connection with the disappearance of a cache of high powered weapons from a warehouse at the B.D.F. headquarters in Ladyville that was detected last week. Dennis Ireland, a resident of Mahogany Street, is being sought for his suspected role in the theft of forty-two weapons of various models and calibers from the Price Barracks compound. In the wake of the major security infraction, Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Defense Allen Whylie recommended disciplinary measures to be taken against three ranking officers who, for various reasons, did not oversee the security of the weapons depot. They are Deputy Commander Javier Castellanos, Captain Damian Amaya and Warrant Officer Roy Flores. Ireland, who is suspected to have been aided during the burglary, was busted in March 2010 with a single live round of five point five-six ammunition and twenty-seven expended seven point six-two shells in his pants pocket during a search of his person while in detention at the Queen Street Police Station. As things go, the commandant of the B.D.F. was out of the country at the time of the burglary. From what we know, he was in Belmopan today along with his deputy, Castellanos, in high level meetings.
Ex BDF wanted for questioning in Price Barracks burglary
Police have released the picture of an ex BDF soldier, saying that he is wanted for questioning in the case of the stolen guns from the BDF camp. Those guns were discovered as missing from the Price Barracks BDF weaponry storage last week and have not been recovered. Ex-BDF soldier, Dennis Ireland of Mahogany Street is wanted by police and they say he is a person of interest in the case. Ireland has had run ins with the law before. On March 30th of 2010, while he was still a BDF corporal, he was found with a single live round of 5.56 ammunition and 27 expended 7.62 shells while he was off duty.