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Marty Offline OP
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It is the biggest money laundering trial in Belize's history - and today it ended dramatically.

In 2008, The Financial Intelligence Unit accused the Coye Family of money laundering using their Moneygram operation. But in October of 2010, 2 years after the charges were first laid, the case ended rather abruptly when Justice Adolph Lucas directed the jury to acquit Michael and Marlene Coye; their daughter, Melonie Coye; her husband James Gerou; brother, Jude Coye; and their two employees Athlee Matute and Dietrick Kingston, all because of lack of evidence.

The FIU got a retrial, and a year and 10 months later, they brought the case back before the Chief Justice, and the accused persons were forced to submit themselves for an examination of their lives a second time by the courts.

This time, the FIU only charged Michael Coye; his daughter, Melonie Coye; their 2 employees, Athlee Matute and Dietrick Kingston; and the family's company, Money Exchange International Limited, a subsidiary agent, which answers to Omni Networks Limited, which was the the master agent representing MoneyGram International in Belize.

According to the FIU, between the months of October 2007 and December 2008, the defendants received, possessed, or concealed 1.57 million Belize dollars knowing that it is the proceeds of the crime of fraud, and forgery.

Viewers may remember that this 1.57 million dollars was found stuffed in suitcases at Michael Coye's home at #12 Johnson Street back on December 31, 2008.

Today, that case came to a close with today, after a 3-week trial, and after more than 3 hours of deliberation, a jury of 9 convicted all defendants with a 7-2 majority verdict.

The media spoke to their lead attorney, Arthur Saldivar, outside of court, and he told us that they will appeal this decision.

Arthur Saldivar, attorney for Coye's
"The jury after listening to the case for 3 weeks came back with a verdict of guilty for all accused. Certainly it was a shocking turn of events considering that the persecution didn't even bother to try to prove its own case. You as a reporter will look at the indictment that was placed before the jury in the court of Justice Lucas which basically was an indictment brought to show that the accused actually engaged actively in the engendering of property that were deemed proceed of crime and that case ended with an acquittal by the judge on the basis that the persecution couldn't prove that anything that was found on 12 Johnson Street was actually the proceeds of crime. Nothing new came to this case except a new indictment. An indictment that basically sought to show that the accused persons received property that were the proceeds of crime."

"If you cannot show that they were involved in activities that created funds that were the proceeds of crime, how in God's name can you show that they were involved in either directly or indirectly in receiving funds."

Daniel Ortiz
"Obviously the jury did not agree with your view."

Arthur Saldivar, attorney for Coye's
"Of course they have a right to do that. That's the idea and the judge of facts. But here is the fact. There was no evidence of any transaction resulting in any money. None whatsoever, there was no evidence of any monies coming out of any account going to anybody, none whatsoever. There was no evidence either in cheque or wire transfer of monies coming from any source, any source whatsoever."

Rowland Parks, reporter
"So is this the end of the line for the Coye matter or are you going to appeal?"

Arthur Saldivar, attorney for Coye's
"Hell no. This case was riddled with irregularities and will be appeal. It's hard to say what a jury would have thought. I thank the jury for the time that they spent. I certainly appreciate the fact that they took the time to listen to the case. I believe that they deliberated. What I believe is that maybe the case was a bit too long somewhat confusing for them and at the end of the day I don't believe the result they came to was the right one."

Chief Justice Benjamin has deferred sentencing until August 8, to give all the defendants an opportunity to prepare a mitigation plea. In addition to Saldivar, the defendants were also represented by attorneys Bryan Neal and Dickie Bradley.

The prosecution was represented by Antoinette Moore, Tricia Pitts-Anderson, and Pat Arana.

Director of the FIU - Marilyn Williams told us it is not just a victory for the FIU, it is a victory for the entire country.

Channel 7

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Marty Offline OP
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Coyes Going To Jail for Money Laundering!

Last week, 7News told you about the dramatic ending to the Coye Family money laundering case in the court room of Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin.

Today, the mitigation hearing was held, and the end of that 6 hour procedure, 65 year-old Michael Coye, and his daughter, Melonie, were sentenced to prison time, while the Athlee Matute and Dietrick Kingston were sentenced to pay stiff fines.

But both sides of the legal lines are sticking to their position, and no one is giving any ground.

Here's what we found out at that hearing:

Daniel Ortiz Reporting

Passions were inflamed at the mitigation hearing today where the harsh glare of the public lens was an aggravation for supporters of the Coyes.

You can see clearly where one of those supporters shoves a folder in front of the camera belonging to our Amandala colleague, and she slaps his hand away.

Throughout the trial, the Director of the Financial Intelligence Unit was convinced that her prosecuting team would win.

Marilyn Williams - Director, FIU
"The turning point for the case was when the case went to the Court of Appeal, to be honest with you. It was not in this case. I am of the firm belief that had we reached a jury in the original matter, the outcome would have been the same. I believe then, as I believe now that we've always had a very strong case, and it was just a matter of it going through the requisite process."

But the defense doesn't believe so, and the lead attorney, Arthur Saldivar, says that they will appeal this judgment.

Arthur Saldivar - Attorney for the Defendants
"In order for a case of money laundering to be sustained, those who are accused of committing the offense of money laundering must be first shown to have committed a prescribed offence under the money laundering act, Chapter 104 of the Laws of Belize, which is the act that Melonie Coye, her father and everybody else was brought under. In that regard, what the prosecution sought to show was that this money was derived from fraud and forgery. Now, fraud is not an offence under the Laws of Belize, but that indictment that was brought has fraud included. Forgery, as it is it within the laws of Belize - and there is certain penalties attached to it, so it's an offence - the elements of forgery were never brought out. In fact, they never attempted to show that forgery in fact took place. When forgery takes place, it must be shown that the persons accused of forgery either had the intent to defraud someone, circumvent the course of justice, or actually caused injury or loss to someone. Nothing like that was every established. You have seen the application. The application is there; we have our grounds. Most of the grounds centers on the direction given to the jury. One of those was indicative of what was said in court just now that those defendants - the accused - did not provide a sufficiently convincing story as to where this money came from. Again, a man working 22 years and saving; a man whose wife earns more than $47,000 a year; which is evidenced by the Income Tax no less; a man who has had a gas business, selling aggregates for many years; how is it you will say now that he cannot have but any Chinese businessman on Albert Street can have it in their place of business? Any 'Turk' can have it in their place of business, but a Belizean can't have it? So what, we are stupid people who we cannot save our money? My clients were scapegoated, plain and simple. How the jury reached their decision, I don't know. But they have a right, and certainly, they listened, and I believe that they were misled."

After hearing the entire mitigation plea, Chief Justice Benjamin sentenced Melonie Coye to serve 3 years in prison, and when she is released, she must pay $50,000 within 1 year, or she will spend another 1 in default. According to the CJ, the evidence points to her as the mastermind.

Michael Coye was also sentenced to serve 3 years in prison, but he only has to pay a fine of $25,000.

For both Matute and Kingston, CJ Benjamin sentenced them to pay a fine of $25,000. They must make an installment of $10,000 by November 1. After that, they must pay $500 installments until they finish paying the rest.

Channel 7

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Marty Offline OP
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How The Coye's Became Convicts

Convictions for white collar crime are very rare in Belize - and that's why tonight, it's still quite remarkable to consider to Michael Coye and his daughter Melonie are spending their second night in jail.

We expect that she is in the female section - and for Michael Coye, possibly, due to his age and family background he may end up in the Tango Five section - which is reserved for small timers, family court offenders and low risk prisoners.

How did they end up there? We revisit that in a recap of yesterday's unprecedented events at the Supreme Court:

Daniel Ortiz Reporting

36 year-old Melonie and 65 year-old Michael Coye are in in prison tonight, a culmination of over 3 years of work from the Financial Intelligence Unit.

It is the first money laundering conviction in Belize, and for the members of the Coye family, now considered white collar criminals, and facing prison time, it their first criminal conviction

The Coye family and friends' were visibly shaken as the pair were escorted by police to be taken to the prison transport for the long ride to the central prison in Hattieville.

And while it is a stunning outcome, this is really about a suitcase stuffed with over a million dollars in cash that was found at the Coye's home.

Where did all that cash come from?

Marilyn Williams - Director, FIU
"Sometimes, you may know that someone committed a crime. But, that is called intelligence; it doesn't become evidence until you can get someone who can actually come and testify as to those facts.

Arthur Saldivar - Attorney for the Defendants
"The thing about it is this. This was a shoddy investigation if any investigation was done at all. If this is what we consider the requirements for justice to be served then justice was buried today and was buried on Friday because at the end of the day you had clear evidence of monies coming out of banks, not one bank - not two banks and not just a couple years ago, but as far back as the year 2000. No investigator interviewed anyone from the banks to determine whether or not those monies were deposited by Michael Coye or anytime. That was never brought before this court. So, to say now, that because Michael Coye had money that derived its origin from the bank in his home, that this is evidence of money laundering is preposterous."

Daniel Ortiz
"Sir, but then the explanation that your client gave as to how he amassed that money at his house, the Chief Justice, in his capacity, disagreed. He called it improbable."

Arthur Saldivar
"I am glad that you mentioned that. Even if it were, my client, as a Belizean, has a right to remain silent. He need not say anything. It is not for him to prove his innocence; it is for the prosecution to prove his guilt. So, if the prosecution did no sufficiently investigate to actually fix guilt on Michael Coye or anyone else, who is anybody to say that what he said is not so?"

The 2 employees are able to spend time with their families now, somewhat free from the burdens of the case. However, these 2 men, who have been out of work for more than 3 years, must pay stiff fines.

But they are more concerned about the Coyes family members for whom they want full exoneration.

Athlee Matute - Convicted of Money Laundering
"Even though the time wasn't such a long time, I really would have hoped for the better and wished that all four of us could have gotten the same sentence, I mean, because we still all maintain our innocence in this entire ordeal. And I really do hope, though I cannot really say, because I've been ease, but for my other 2 close friends, that justice will prevail for them in the near future."

But it must not be forgotten that scope of what the Coyes are convicted of: mass fraud in which the court agreed that they fraudulently used a database of Belizean citizens' driver's licenses - without their knowledge - and used those identifications to funnel money into Belize through MoneyGram.

Adele Ramos was one of those identity theft victims.

File: June 5, 2009

Adele Ramos - Identity Was Stolen
It had my name, my addressand my driver's license number. The transfer was from a Felix Anongus in California, who I don't know. When I initially learnt of the story, the first two things that came to my mind was one, how is it that people's information, private confidential information, could be used in transactions like these. It is not even being done here in Belize, the sender was from outside apparently, based on the transaction report.

I was stunned. You mean somebody can just walk into an office with a flash drive and steal the information of hundreds of Belizeans from all walks of life? It is incredible Jules, I can't believe it, I just can't believe it."

But Saldivar says that even the evidence that the FIU was able to furnish the court with, is questionable due to inconsistences of testimonies and witness statements from the prosecution.

Arthur Saldivar
"You have the situation of a CD that was central to this case. And now that it's over, I will speak on it because the CD is what supposedly fixed the prosecution and the jury with the knowledge that Money Exchange International Limited would have had access to a database of names from the drivers' license database of the City Council. Well, in the affidavit and statement of the FIU Director, herself, at paragraph 10 of that affidavit - and I'll make it known to you. I'll publish it for you. She said that she got this thing from a Sergeant Kenrick Lewis. Sergeant Kenrick Lewis came to court and testified in court that he didn't receive any CD. So, how could he give any CD to Ms. Williams? How could he do that? This case was fixed on the basis of untruths told by the witnesses under oath."

It is important to note that in his unsworn statement in explanation of the money at his home, Michael Coye told the court that he sold 3 properties worth $400,000, $250,000, and $370,000. He also said that he inherited $380,000 from his mother when she died.

According to Coye, in the 1980's there was a rumor going about that the banks in Belize were experiencing some irregularities, and he got advice from a friend to withdraw all his money to avoid any losses.

He said that he contacted an attorney, who told him that it is imprudent to take out all his money, but it is not illegal.

Coye said that he made the decision and withdrew all his money from every bank he was doing business with. The rest of money, according to him, came from his savings while he worked on his different businesses after retirement.

As noted in the interview, Chief Justice Benjamin, in coming to his decision on the sentence, remarked that the story was improbable.

Channel 7

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