Products Come From Bz
On Friday, Guatemalan military and police descended on Melchor in an unprecedented operation that has led to the arrest of 37 smugglers, some of them Guatemalan Customs Officials.
A diagram of the group's criminal structure on the Guatemalan police website shows that they are called the Cigarettes Crew, and that's because one of the major things they smuggled was cigarettes from Belize. And we don't mean a few cartons; we mean container-fuls.
This helps to explain why there was such a flare-up ten days ago about the container of Chinese Made Modern Cigarettes. According to our investigations, hundreds of containers of this are brought into Belize annually destined for the northern and western free zones - and much of it is smuggled into Mexico, Guatemala, Salvador, and into Mexico from Guatemala.
It's a great big racket, but the Guatemalan police have blown it up in Friday action, which is called Operation Dawn.
According to the police website and the Prensa Libre, cigarettes, whiskey, wood and corn are smuggled from Belize into Guatemala. Once it gets over there, customs and police officials not only get it through the border without paying duty, but they then escort it to retail outlets in Izabal, Chimiqula and Guatemala City.
The Guatemalan Task force against smuggling launched a three month investigation that led to the issuance of 40 arrest warrants - which were all executed on Friday morning.
The 37 detained have been charged with conspiracy, Customs Fraud, evasion of customs duty, conspiracy to commit smuggling and illegal trafficking of Flora and Fauna.
And while that's on the Guatemalan side of the border, the operation is likely to have far reaching effects on the Belize side of the border in Benque Viejo - where large scale smuggling is part of that town's economic lifeblood. The cross border smuggling of corn, cattle and timber through Bullett Tree is considered robust, and the illegal cigarette trade into Guatemala is also said to be significant.