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Atty Andrew Bennett wanted by USA for money laundering #527976
12/29/17 06:06 AM
12/29/17 06:06 AM
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US Wants to Extradite Attorney Andrew Bennett For Money Laundering

Last night we told you that the US government was requesting the extradition of a Belizean attorney. Tonight we can confirm that the request is for 46 year old Andrew Bennett, known as a partner in the law firm of Glenn D. Godfrey and Company. We have to say, known as, because today we saw that his name had been taken down from the Godfrey website - but we know it was there up until very recently.

And here's why it probably came down: there's an arrest warrant for Bennett from the District of Puerto Rico dated July 2015, and an indictment for 7 counts of money laundering from a Puerto Rico Grand Jury.

That forms the basis for an extradition request sent to Belize's Ministry of Foreign Affairs eight days ago by the US State Department.

The evidence presented in the request paints a very interesting picture - where Bennett is caught in the net, but the target seems to be bigger players in the banking sector. It says that in 2013, a confidential informant in Belize told a DEA agent that high level bankers and political figures in Belize were running money laundering operations for drug trafficking organizations through two International Banks in Belize - by using "nested" accounts in another International Bank - which had a correspondent banking relationship with US banks.

That informant sent an undercover agent to meet with Bennett as an attorney who - allegedly - could launder drug proceeds. The agent told Bennett that he represented a Colombian and Puerto Rican drug trafficking organization that needed to launder drug money.

Bennett allegedly told the undercover agent that he could set up some IBC's, or shell companies to provide a front for laundering drug proceeds. The evidence says he asked for a retainer and followed up with the agent as to when the funds would be coming in.

They did - in May 2015 when the undercover agent claims he took 250 thousand US dollars in a backpack to a meeting with Bennett at the Riverside Tavern.

He says he handed the money over to Bennett - who - under surveillance by the US funded Anti-Drug Unit then went to Slingshot Signs. This business plays a role in the whole operation since Bennett allegedly told the agent that he would be using this business to launder the money. The owner Karim Berges says he knows nothing about that. He says his business has been up for sale for some time. He says Bennett had expressed interest in his company some years ago - but the sale didn't materialize.

The evidence cited by the US says that Bennett and his driver walked into slingshot with the same knapsack full, and he came out with it sometime later, apparently empty.

After that, Bennett allegedly wired the money - minus his 20% commission of 50 thousand US dollars - as instructed by the agent - to accounts in Atlanta, New York and Puerto Rico. That reads like textbook money laundering, but for his part, Bennett told us today that he denies all allegations. He said he will have to meet with his legal team to decide the way going forward. He says he knew nothing about the extradition request until we reported on it last night.

Now, we should note that sending an extradition request does not mean that arrest or extradition will follow automatically, or immediately. First, the state has to be convinced that what is called a "prima facie" case exists, and then a magistrate issues a provisional warrant for arrest. We're not there yet, and could be quite far from it - as news has broken in advance of any of this happening.

But news broke early on this one because it is the first extradition request for a practicing attorney - indicted for conducting professional services - in a questionable fashion. We'll keep following the story.

Channel 7


Re: Atty Andrew Bennett wanted by USA for money laundering [Re: Marty] #527995
12/30/17 05:59 AM
12/30/17 05:59 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 60,011
oregon, spr
Marty Online happy OP

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AG Frowns Over News Breaking Story of Extradition Request For Attorney

Attorney General Mike Peyreffite says the his ministry has only recently received the extradition request for attorney Andrew Bennett, and the Solicitor General has not gone through it fully as yet.

Under the extradition law - the Solicitor General acts as the attorney for the US government so he has to be fully conversant with the facts and convinced of the validity of the request.

Peyreffite said that he feels it is unfair to the accused that the news knows the facts of case, before the extradition request goes through its due process.

We note, though, that there's an arrest warrant for Bennett in the territory of Puerto Rico dated July 2015, and an indictment for 7 counts of money laundering from a Puerto Rico Grand Jury.

The charges date back to 2013 when an undercover DEA agent asked Bennett to launder money from Drug Trafficking Organizations based in Colombia and Puerto Rico. The figures discussed were in the millions of dollars, and the first installment was delivered in May of 2015. That's when the undercover agent claims he took 250 thousand US dollars in a backpack to a meeting with Bennett at the Riverside Tavern. He claims Bennett had required a 20% commission to process the transaction.

He says he handed the money over to Bennett - who - under surveillance by the US funded Anti Drug Unit then went to Slingshot Signs. This business plays a role in the whole operation since Bennett allegedly told the agent that he would be using it to launder the money. In fact, he said that he would be buying the business for 5 million US dollars - when it was valued at three million, so that more money could be laundered. The owner Karim Berges says he knows nothing about that. He says his business has been up for sale for some time. He says Bennett had expressed interest in his company some years ago - but the sale didn't materialize.

For his part Bennett told us that he denies all allegations. He said he will have to meet with his legal team to decide the way going forward. He says he knew nothing about the extradition request until we reported on it.

Channel 7


Re: Atty Andrew Bennett wanted by USA for money laundering [Re: Marty] #528102
01/05/18 06:08 AM
01/05/18 06:08 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 60,011
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Marty Online happy OP

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“Uncle Sam” Closing in on Andrew Bennett

The Office of the Attorney General has completed the requisite paperwork and is awaiting Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington’s signature before proceeding with the extradition request for attorney Andrew Bennett, who is wanted for extradition to the United States on money laundering charges.

His freedom, however, may be cut short in the days to come as it is expected that at the earliest, Foreign Minister Elrington will sign the paperwork on Friday morning. Once those documents have been penned, the Attorney General’s Office will then present the bundle to Chief Magistrate Sharon Frazer, who will in turn prepare a provisional warrant for Bennett’s arrest. The forty-six-year-old attorney is wanted by U.S. authorities following charges of money laundering that were brought against him in Puerto Rico.

Bennett was indicted on seven counts in absentia by a grand jury in that U.S. overseas territory and a warrant for his arrest goes back to July 2015. Bennett was busted in a sting that was organized by the Drug Enforcement Administration after it was informed by an informant in 2013 that political figures and high-profile bankers were operating money laundering activities through two international banks in Belize. He is said to have received a bag of money containing two hundred and fifty thousand U.S. dollars at the Riverside Tavern from the undercover agent.

Channel 5


Re: Atty Andrew Bennett wanted by USA for money laundering [Re: Marty] #528228
01/11/18 06:02 AM
01/11/18 06:02 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 60,011
oregon, spr
Marty Online happy OP

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Report: Foreign Minister Signs Off On Bennett Extradition File

Attorney Andrew Bennett could be one step closer to a US extradition tonight. Reports to 7News say that Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington has signed off on the extradition file sent by the US State Department and forwarded it to the Attorney General's Ministry.

That would mean that Elrington is satisfied that he is satisfied that all documentation from the US is in order. It's an important step - since not all requests that arrive at the Foreign Minister's office are forwarded on for action.

The next steps would be for the AG's Ministry to satisfy itself, and then take the case to the Chief Magistrate for the issuance of a provisional warrant.

Channel 7


Re: Atty Andrew Bennett wanted by USA for money laundering [Re: Marty] #528393
01/19/18 06:05 AM
01/19/18 06:05 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 60,011
oregon, spr
Marty Online happy OP

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Extradition Proceedings Begin For Bennett, In A First, He Gets Bail

Since we broke the story of the US Extradition request for attorney Andrew Bennett, we've been closely following the developments on this unprecedented case. 

Bennett becomes the first attorney that the US government has requested to face extradition proceedings. The Americans want him to stand trial in the District of Puerto Rico for 7 counts of money laundering, and today, after weeks of preparation by the state, the formal process actually started.

As we told you, the next step was for Chief Magistrate Sharon Frazer to issue a provisional warrant for his apprehension, and then a first hearing - which is very much like your standard arraignment. It happened at court this morning, and our 7News team was there. 

Daniel Ortiz reports:

Andrew Bennett walking out

Reporter
"Mr. Bennett do you have any comments?"

Andrew Bennett - Facing Extradition
"No comment."

Reporter
"Do you still deny the allegations?"

Andrew Bennett
(Silence)

That single response was the only comment Attorney Andrew Bennett made today after meeting his bail of $100,000.

With today's first hearing, the extradition proceedings formally begins, and will not end until his discharged, or if it is decided that he should stand trial in the US a for money laundering.

Solicitor General Nigel Hawk and Bennett's attorney, Anthony Sylvestre, were very brief with their public comments after the hearing and kept the talking points directed the issue of bail.

Apart from being the first attorney being sought for extradition, as far as we know, he's the only defendant who managed to get bail

Daniel Ortiz
"How would you describe today's first hearing? Is it like an arraignment?"

Anthony Sylvestre - Attorney for Andrew Bennett
"Yes, it is an arraignment, and so, we stressed that point, just as in arraignments, because the matters are to be conducted similarly, as if somebody were charged with an indictable offense in Belize. And so, the person would appear, and consideration to bail. And, again, 1 if it is a bailable offense - if it were for instance an offense such as murder or treason, then, that automatically would not been within the purview of the Chief Magistrate to even consider bail. So, it is a bailable offense, so for instance, we would have contrasted, say in the past, you have persons being charged with money laundering. They appeared before the court, and it is a bailable offense, once you can show that person will turn to the court, and that they can and will be able to adhere to the conditions, which the court set out, then bail is usually granted."

Nigel Hawke - Solicitor General
"We issued our formal objection because of our treaty obligations in respect of bail. You heard the submissions from the other side, in respect of bail. The court agreed with their submissions with respect to mail. She has jurisdiction to deal with the issue of bail, and bail was granted. So, at this point, the proceedings are deemed to be opened. So, there is not much that we can say until we really get to the beginning of things."

Anthony Sylvestre
"We made the point that yes, while there may have been the cases that maybe persons who have been arraigned on extradition weren't granted bail, but there are circumstances that distinguish or take this defendant's case, Mr. Bennett's case, from theirs, such as, for instance where a person would have committed an offense in the United States and fled to this jurisdiction, then clearly, those would be compelling reasons why a person would not have been granted bail."

Since the story broke, Bennett maintained his innocence of all the charges which the US Government. Now keep in mind that they say that they have evidence, including a surveillance of Bennett back when the offenses were supposedly committed.

Sylvestre told us that his client has the constitutional right to the presumption of innocence, which is why he stressed that point to convince Chief Magistrate Sharon Frazer to grant him bail.

Daniel Ortiz
"Is your client maintaining his innocence against all allegations and charges?"

Anthony Sylvestre
"Of course, I don't know if you were in court, but that was one of the points we made as well, that there is this presumption of innocence."

But, over the course of the next following months, the court inspect the extradition file, Chief Magistrate Frazer will determine if there is justifiable reasons for her to order his extradition.

Nigel Hawke
"Once the documents are laid before the court, we are going to have to be ready to have those documents ready for disclosure, and the position is yes."

After being brought before Chief Magistrate Frazer, Bennett's attorney, Anthony Sylvestre argued very extensively why he should be eligible for bail. He made the point that from as early as December 28, Bennett was made aware of the extradition request for him. His attorney says he has cooperated with the extradition proceedings, and he even voluntarily handed himself in after learning that the provisional warrant for his apprehension was already approved. Sylvestre also stressed that under the constitution, Bennett is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and that remanding him without due cause would be disenfranchising Bennett, since remand could end up becoming a type of punishment.

Responding, Solicitor General Nigel Hawke reiterated that the state was objecting on the grounds that Belize cannot breach the extradition treaty obligations to the US Government. At the end, he deferred to her judgment on the issue of bail.

After consideration, Chief Magistrate Frazer explained that the elements in his case were very weighty, but that she does not think that, as an officer of the court, he would violate his obligation to attend all adjournments of the extradition proceedings, until they are completed. 

She then granted him bail of $100,000, and he is to surrender all his travel documents. He cannot leave the country, except with the express approval of the court itself. Additionally, he must report to the Queen Street Police Station every Monday and Friday until his case is concluded.

The case has been adjourned until February 2.

Channel 7



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