Senior Fisheries Officer Fingered for Alleged Sea Cucumber Scam
Is there financial hanky-panky going on at the Belize Fisheries Department? Senior fisheries officer Mauro Gongora is under fire for allegedly persuading a cane farmer from Corozal Town into paying sixty-four thousand dollars for a Fish Exporters License and over three thousand pounds of sea cucumber which he is yet to receive. In March of this year, Gongora purportedly approached Pedro Edilberto Guerra and offered to use his connections within the Belize Fisheries Department to facilitate the issuance of an exclusive permit to buy and export frozen sea cucumber. A loan was subsequently obtained to meet the sum requested by Gongora. According to a letter written by attorney Oscar Sabido, every assurance was then given to Guerra that the process would have been completed within three days.
Later that month, the department published invitations for offers by public tender to purchase frozen sea cucumber. Guerra was advised to submit a bid of nine dollars and fifty cents per pound and was guaranteed that the offer would be accepted. On March twenty-fifth, he proceeded to purchase three thousand, seventy-five pounds of sea cucumber, following a letter from the fisheries department accepting the proposal. That’s an additional twenty-nine thousand dollars which Guerra invested on the grounds that frozen sea cucumber was being sold on the international market at twenty-one U.S. dollars per pound. But, the canero would not realize any profit from the venture since he was informed by Gongora, sometime later, that the fisheries department was prohibiting him from exporting the produce. Naturally, Guerra became incensed and argued strongly with Gongora since he did not want to lose the monies he invested.
Despite being offered a refund and receiving a provisional Fish Exporters License which expired at the end of June, Guerra is yet to receive the produce. Instead, he got a letter from the fisheries department requesting a report on the sale of the sea cucumber. Gongora then instructed Guerra to inform that a company by the name of Rio Grande had made the purchase. Guerra has since learned that a total of nine other individuals received licenses together with him and that the cost of the permit was considerably less than what he paid. In fact, the fee is only thirty-five dollars and not the whopping thirty-five thousand dollars that he had been charged. As a result of the inducement, Guerra has lost his entire investment and is now seeking civil action to recover the monies spent, as well as damages. News Five spoke with Fisheries Administrator Beverly Wade earlier today. She told us that despite being aware of Sabido’s letter to Gongora, she is not in a position to comment on the matter since it is an allegation being made against someone who, quote, has no formal role in the issuance of sea cucumber licenses, unquote. Wade also says that she is confident that the department’s administrative procedures for the issuance of those permits were not breached or influenced by Gongora.