There are confirmed reports of yet another drug plane landing in Blue Creek before midnight Sunday. Sources say that there was a shootout between the Police and the narco-traffickers and two Mexicans and a Belizean were detained. Those sources say that the plane was also found loaded with drugs. Information is still scarce but we'll provide updates as we get them.
More than one thousand pounds of cocaine (in 26 bails) were found in a Cessna 210 that landed in the Tres Leguas area of Northwestern Belize, near Blue Creek last night. It is a common landing area for such narco-flights. Police were tracking the flight, and in position when it landed. There was a firefight, which resulted in 4 persons (2 Mexicans, 2 Belizeans) including a police constable being detained, and the plane taking some damages. The Cessna has been transferred to the BDF Airwing for safekeeping, by tow truck. Police transferred the drugs and the suspects to its largest police staiton in Belize City.
Click photos for more pictures
Illicit cargo from drug bust in Orange Walk over the weekend is transported under heavy police guard. 3 persons, including a police officer were detained in the incident which News Five is being told occurred just before midnight on Saturday.
The narco plane that landed in northern Belize being towed to a new home.
Re: Another drug plane, with passengers and cargo?
#532261 09/12/1806:16 AM09/12/1806:16 AM
Senior Cop Sidelined Pending Drug Plane Investigation
The big news this weekend was the bust of a drug plane in northwestern Belize with over a thousand pounds of cocaine on board - but the huge news tonight is that a senior cop - the officer commanding Orange Walk is being investigated for involvement with the drug plane landings.
Superintendent David Chi - who has been in charge in Orange Walk going on three years was sent home today. An official police release says, quote, "Chi has been relieved of his command…and placed on administrative leave pending the investigation into his possible involvement in the illegal landing of this aircraft."
It is a seismic event - Chi is an officer with 34 years in the Department - and he has been in charge in Orange Walk for over three years. For the police to publicly link him to the landing of a narco plane suggests a high level of criminal collusion in law enforcement.
And why did police make such a dramatic move? Well, three reasons, first, we're told that police constable Norman Anthony who was caught near Sunday's plane landing - has pointed to Chi as the man who sent him to the area. Second, police who were there say that they saw Chi briefly appear in the area after the bust had been made. And, third, we understand that there is a statement from a player in the narco-trade who claims he paid Chi substantial sums of money to secure an airstrip for an illegal landing.
Now all these are just allegations, but police felt strongly enough to hurriedly move him today and to announce it - rather than try and sweep it under the rug. Chi has been placed on administrative leave for 5 days.
Over 1K Lbs of 'Caine on Drug Plane
This evening's police statement says, quote, "information has surfaced the possible involvement of police officers in the illegal plane landing…in northern Belize on September 9th."
And indeed, there was; tonight a police constable is detained along with three others who were caught along with a plane that carried over 500 kilos of drugs. That was the biggest event of the weekend: bigger than carnival or tenth. And that's because after 10 months of regular drug plane landings in Belize - finally(!) the police caught one.
It happened on Sunday night - and Jules Vasquez has the full story:
Jules Vasquez reporting
On Monday at 11:15, a convoy of police pickups blocked off New Road and pulled into the Queen Street station
Inside the blue Mazda, were 26 bails of cocaine -weighing over one thousand pounds and valued at 7 million US dollars.
Inside the white Wingle, four suspects caught at or near the scene - two Mexicans, and two Belizeans.
Deputy Compol Chester Williams presided over operations.
While the handcuffed suspects were marched upstairs for questioning, masked soldiers kept a tight watch looking much like Mexican anti-drug units - fitting because these drugs were probably bound for that neighboring country.
The bails were bundled upstairs where they would be weighed and securely stored. The drugs were captured after a dramatic firefight near the Blue Creek Community airstrip. Police said they started getting the information on the movements of this plane from 2:00 am on Sunday - 18 hours before it was found in Belize.
Allen Whylie, Police Commissioner "On Sunday at about 2:06am, where we received information that an unregistered aircraft departed Venezuela. As per protocol, the police activated a number of sources consist of monitoring activities countrywide and throughout that afternoon, we continue to receive a number of updates in terms of this aircraft and the position that it was. At about 7 o' clock we started receive from some of our sources that an aircraft was seen as well as heard in the North, in the area of Santa Martha/Carmelita area and sometime around 9 o' clock, one of the joint police/BDF teams were approaching the northern community airstrip in the Blue Creek area and they met a police officer who was is attached to the Blue Creek police sub-station in the vicinity. He was stopped, he was spoken to and they were not satisfied in terms of what he said to them and so he was subsequently detained."
"At that time an aircraft was also heard in the vicinity. The joint team approached the northern community airstrip and about 9:16pm, they came under fire. They consequently returned fire. There was a fire fight between half an hour to perhaps forty five minutes. It was obvious that the joint police/BDF team were superior. They were able to overcome the firefight resistance and they were able to approach where they saw an airplane which they secured and secured the area."
DCP Chester Williams, Commander OPS "Yes, a vehicle did sped off after the gunshots subsided and that vehicle went to the direction of the area that leads into Mexico. The officers were more interested in securing the aircraft and its content as well as the 2 persons who were left there and so those persons were detained into custody and the aircraft were secured and we were able to get its contents as well."
Allen Whylie, Police Commissioner "Also detained in that area by the security forces, were 2 Mexicans along with a Belizean, also from the northern district."
So, police arrested three persons at the scene, and the plane with 25 bails of cocaine and two individual bricks of cocaine inside, plus a white pickup truck with Mexican plates into which one bail of cocaine had already been transferred.
The plane had to be hauled out of the area on a tow truck - the drug runners had used it for cover in the firefight and it was riddled with bullets.
Allen Whylie, Police Commissioner "A close inspection of that aircraft indicated that the tail number is a fictitious one and we are yet to complete in terms of establishing the original tail number for that aircraft."
And while police have the plane, the biggest subject of interest right now is the role of the policemen, a constable who the police say was acting suspiciously in the area. We note that he is seen here at the scene, in cuffs wearing a police uniform pants:
Allen Whylie, Police Commissioner "In respect to the detention of the police officer - I have directed that a thorough investigation be completed internally, not only to look at that officer, but also to look at some additional information that we have received and I can assure you that no stones will be left unturned. The investigation will be thorough."
Reporter "It is a subject of interest of the person, the police constable involved is a relative of yours through marriage and if you are the person who assigned him to that lonely outpost in Blue Creek."
Allen Whylie, Police Commissioner "He is no relative of mine. Contrary to what Facebook is saying that my brother-in-law or my cousin. He is not my cousin. He is a distant relative of my wife and when I say distant, I say not a first, not a second, not a third cousin. But they are from the village and so almost everybody in the village are related. But he is no relative of mine. If he was, I would not deny it and he would still be responsible for his own action."
And while we wait and see what the charges against him and the others will be, the public wonders, was this just a lucky bust, or has something changed?:
Hon. John Saldivar, Minister of National Security "The government of Belize and the certainly the Ministry of National Security has been working diligently to try to change our modus, to change our strategies and all we can say at this time is that the changes that we have made, we believe have led to this great success and we will have to learn from this success."
And since no plane has been caught recently - while so many have landed - police must be ready for whatever plays out next:
Reporter "A huge amount of drugs is confiscated, do you see any retaliation from cartel members?"
DCP Chester Williams, Commander OPS "We have not received any information of such, but our special branch personnel are on the ground and whatever information is obtained, it will be fed to us and then we will act. What we will be doing now, is preparing charges to those persons who will be charged. After that we will be making application to the court to have the drugs destroyed, hopefully before the end of this week. We do not want to keep it in our custody for too long."
The four persons - including police constable Norman Anthony remain detained without charges.
To confirm, it was 1,226 pounds or 556 kilos. As you heard, police hope to destroy it this week.
Was There Another Plane?
Now, in spite of this very large bust that happened on Sunday night, there are persistent reports that another plane landed in the Blue Creek area 24 hours later on Monday night. The press asked the police about it:...
Reporter "I've received information that there was another aircraft landing in Blue Creek around 7:30pm, can this be confirmed?"
DCP Chester Williams "We have received information that a plane was flying low, yes. And we deployed to the area and the plane never did touch down. It took off."
Last night, we gave you extensive coverage of the capture of a drug plane in northern Belize, loaded with over a thousand pounds of cocaine, valued at around 7 million US dollars. Since then, a senior police officer has been placed on leave pending investigation into his possible involvement in the landing of the aircraft.
But while the investigation into the actions of Superintendent David Chi is still early, police are moving forward with criminal charges against the men caught at the scene.
The Belizean has been identified to us as Peter Friessen Jr., a carpenter from Blue Creek Village in the Orange Walk District. He has a Mennonite name, but his features are Mestizo, because his father is a mennonite, and his mother is of Hispanic descent. His name is here on this charge sheet, where it says that Friessen, and the Mexicans, Eli Figueroa Nunez, and Azariaz Silverio Manzano, are all jointly charged with drug trafficking 556.2 kilos of cocaine. It says that all 3 men and others were in possession of the cargo on September 9th.
They were caught at the scene after a firefight that lasted for half an hour.
So, Police have moved swiftly and decisively to bring criminal charges, and today, we got a chance to speak with Dickie Bradley, Friessen's attorney. Interestingly, Bradley was already pointing to aspects of the police's allegations against Friessen which he thinks are a bit shaky. Here's how that conversation went this afternoon:
Dickie Bradley, Attorney "There was a fourth person. That person is a Belizean, lives in Blue Creek, in Orange Walk and was in the vicinity of where the plane was coming down. He said he heard the engines of a plane and he heard gunshots like crazy and he decided to run for safety and he went and made contact with the police who were in the area. As a result the police man were let go last night and he has been charged for possession of 552 kilos of cocaine. The person we are talking about from Blue Creek was charged for bringing in the plane, importation and having in his possession - that's a strange case, because the police have the drugs, but they say he had it in his possession. I haven't had a chance to look at his document to see if he is a pilot or anything like that, but he says he didn't have any drugs. For sure he didn't have any drugs in his possession."
"That is the charge and he will either be taken to the magistrate's court here in Belize City or be rushed up to Orange Walk. Because under the constitution which has not been suspended in his case, he must be taken before a court no later than 48 hours."
Reporter "What then would your client would have been doing at around that time? I know it wasn't too late, but in a remote area."
Dickie Bradley, Attorney "I haven't had the opportunity because of almost mayhem with the gang members who were being given their charge sheets and then been told they were taken to prison. So I didn't want him to come out of his cell during that confusion, because there could have been a riot or somebody decide to really give trouble and then next thing you know shots are being fired and so on. He is in a state of shocks. It only dawn on him like he has been charged for being in possession of the drugs. He said he wasn't even close to the plane."
Police Constable Released Without Charge
And while three men have been charged, 52 year old police constable Norman Anthony has been released.
In a press release yesterday, police said he was, quote, "detained in a vehicle heading in the direction of the landing site (and) has been suspended from duty by the Commissioner of police." End quote. Anthony was stationed in Blue Creek where there plane landed. He is now on active suspension.
Today, Bradley discussed his release:...
Dickie Bradley, Attorney "As a result the policeman was let go last night."
Reporter "Is Superintendent David Chi expected to be charged?"
Dickie Bradley, Attorney "I saw another attorney who probably is waiting for instructions. The talk that there is a possibility that he may be charged."
Reporter "So is he detained?"
Dickie Bradley, Attorney "I don't represent him, so I don't want to take away from another lawyer who will probably be representing him or he may be lucky like police officer Anthony and not be charged."
And while he has been released, reports suggest that may be due to time limitations for detention, and he could be detained again sometime in the near future. Repots tell us that police plan to speak with PC Anthony and superintendent David Chi, the former Orange Walk Commander who was relieved of his command yesterday and placed on administrative leave.
What About All Those Other Planes?
And while the investigation into possible criminal wrongdoing by police continues, the US Embassy is applauding police for a job well done.
A release issued this evening says, quote, "The U.S. Embassy commends the Belize security forces for the…major drug bust…This operation, which was a collaboration between the Belize Police Department and the Belize Defence Force, shows the importance of cooperation between law enforcement and other security agencies to combat criminal organizations.
But, the release adds, quote, "Belize remains on the U.S. "Majors" list - those nations deemed to be major illicit drug producing and/or transit countries - but this weekend's action shows the important work Belize is doing to combat the transshipment of illegal drugs. We urge the Government of Belize to intensify these efforts and prosecute offenders."
And that's just what police are trying to do in this case, but with so much US-bound cocaine passing through these borders, they are fighting an uphill battle. Jules Vasquez looked at the recent history of 9 plane landing in the past 10 months - with only one intercept:
Jules Vasquez reporting
26 bales of cocaine - more than a thousand pounds - a street value of upwards of 7 million US dollars; all that in this small plane. But there have been 9 planes intercepted or abandoned or destroyed since November of last year. In most cases they were burned and destroyed, in some cases the narcos didn't have time to burn them. In all previous cases - no drugs were found on board - the illicit cargo had already been transferred by the time the police found the aircraft or its remains. But, while 9 planes - or their remains - have been found, we wonder how many more passed through and how many tons of cocaine must have passed through as well.
Jules Vasquez- Reporter "If this small little single engine plane had over a thousand pounds of cocaine- 1,225- if it had all that cocaine then what was in the jet?"
Allen Whylie- Commissioner of Police "I know the size of the jet is obviously much bigger than Cessna plane that we found. We also know that those planes, and that jet, had been processed and the forensic people, again, had not detected any signs of any cocaine. So, we don't know what may have been the cargo but it is right to speculate that it could have been cocaine."
And of course, there is public uncertainty. Even with more than a thousand pounds of cocaine waiting to be destroyed, there is widespread public cynicism. For police it is a thankless job and there are no wins. If they catch a plane then there are public doubts about whether the cocaine is real or if it was all just a set up. And if they don't catch any planes then there are complaints about incompetence or criminal complicity.
DCP Chester Williams- Commander OPS "To chase a plane in Belize is not an easy task because the plane can land anywhere from the Rio Hondo to the Sarstoon, from the west to the east."
Reporter "Is the government doing anything along with the police department to try to restore some sort of confidence because people don't have any trust in the police department anymore?"
Hon. John Saldivar- Minister of National Security "I, first of all, have to take an issue with where you get your empirical evidence that 95% of this country is skeptical about the police department. I challenge you on that but obviously I don't have the empirical evidence but I know that you certainly do not. The government of Belize and certainly the Ministry of National Security has been working diligently to try to change our modus, to change our strategies and all we can say at this time is that the changes that we have made, we believe, have led to this great success."
The US "majors" list features Belize as one of 21 countries deemed to be major illicit drug producing and/or transit countries.
Tonight two veteran lawmen are behind bars at the Belize Central Prison - and they are charged for landing the drug plane on Sunday night in Blue Creek, Orange Walk.
Today, after a brief back and forth, police took decisive action and charged both Superintendent David Chi and PC Norman Anthony, along with the 2 Mexican nationals caught on the scene, and Blue Creek resident Peter Friessen Jr., who was picked up nearby.
They were all arraigned in Belize City today - and our news team was at court on the frontline. Daniel Ortiz narrates today’s arraignment of all 5. Here’s that story:
Before he was accused of being involved in narcotics trafficking, the press and public had known Senior Superintendent David Chi as a senior cop, speaking with the press about crimes of urgent national interest.
Here is one such press encounter in July of 2017, where his stern, no-nonsense approach was on display as he discussed the murder of Daniel Sosa:
Sr. Supt. David Chi - OC, Orange Walk Police "Mr. Ortiz what you are asking doesn't matter or important to me. A person lost his life, we did an investigation, it leads to Mr. Alamilla as the accused right now and he has been charged. Whatever people think or whatever they feel or whatever the political side - that's their business. I am a police officer and I will do whatever I have to do. Let justice be. At the day of the hearing of the trial the outcome - that's it. Justice. That's my job."
But today, in a seismic twist, he was one on the receiving end of a police investigation. The cops say that he, Peter Friessen Jr., from Blue Creek Village and the 2 Mexicans, Eli Figueroa Nunez and Azariaz Silverio Manzano; and
Police Constable Norman Anthony all colluded to facilitate the September 9th landing of the aircraft in the area of Blue Creek Village in the Orange Walk District.
Police caught the plane before the narco traffickers could move their cargo, and the cops ended up seizing 556.2 kilos - or 1225 pounds - of cocaine after an extended firefight between the cocaine smugglers and Belizean enforcement.
All 5 men are charged with the abetment to the importation of cocaine. Chi, Anthony and Friessen have been additionally charged with the aviation offense of conspiracy to land a plane at an unlicensed aerodrome. The Mexicans and Friessen have been charged with drug trafficking for entire cargo of the cocaine found on the plane.
Outside of court, Norman Anthony’s attorney wasn’t prepared to say much after the arraignment.
Leeroy Banner - Attorney for Norman Anthony "He has been charged with two counts - I won't want to say anything at this time because the matter is before the court and I think it will be unfair to say what I want to say."
Daniel Ortiz "Have the police provided any sort of details to substantiate these charges as yet?"
Leeroy Banner "No, not as yet but the matter is pretty much new, so hopefully before the day is done before next week we will get something to indicate why he has been charged; but so far, nothing as yet."
Dickie Bradley was a bit more forth coming.
Richard “Dickie” Bradley - Attorney for Chi & Friessen "There are 5 persons who have been charges, there are 4 charges of which 2 are new - have just been added where the senior police officer who is in charge of Orange Walk police jurisdiction has now been charged. The police officer who the country was told that he was not going to be charged would have been put in police interdiction and taken to a police tribunal has been charged. The additional charges, the police originally charged persons, 2 Mexicans and one Belizean from Blue Creek had been charged for importing drugs into Belize and for drug trafficking and now the additional charges are that it's abetment to import the drugs into Belize and that has been levied against police officer Norman Anthony and Senior Office David Chi and the police has also charged conspiracy to land a plane at an airstrip which is not licensed for landing planes and Norman Anthony and David Chi along with Mr. Peter Friessen has been charged for that. I think one of you pointed out that on the charge sheet for abetment to bringing the plane, the persons who are charged are also charged along with others. So the police are probably looking for others."
The high profile nature of this case was such that the Gang Suppression Unit was called in to escort the men to and from the Magistrate’s Court. And as usual, they secured the entrance of Senior Magistrate Aretha Ford’s court room, restricting access to the court.
We also saw an unusual figure at court. Speculation was that this man may be Mexican law enforcement, and indeed, he was allowed to carry around his high-powered weapon in the presence of the Belizean cops, lending credibility to this suspicion.
Around the court house, we saw civilians who were identified to us as relatives of the accused men.
These people were reportedly there to show support for the 2 Mexican defendant. They had been at court waiting all morning, unsure if these men would be arraigned here in Belize City, or in Orange Walk.
Richard “Dickie” Bradley "The family have been told that they would be brought to the Belize City magistrate court this morning and they have been sitting around all day; hopefully they come this afternoon or at least indicate that they are going to Orange Walk. They are way out of the 48 hours that the Supreme Court says you must be taken before a court, no later than 48 hours. In relation to the Mexicans and Mr. Freissen, their constitutional rights have been massively breached in regards to that matter. It's from Sunday night and now we are at Thursday midday."
We did get a chance to speak with the distressed mother of Peter Friessen Jr., who wants her son released.
Maria Friessen - Mother of Accused "My heart is broken right now for my son, I love my son but really my heart is broken. My grandson and his wife are waiting for his dad."
Reporter "Ma'am what was he doing out there?"
Maria Friessen "I don't know but because he's a working guy, he's a decent guy, he never had problems with the law with nothing."
Reporter "Again, do you know of his whereabouts on Sunday? What was he doing because police are saying that how they detained him out there after 2 that morning on Sunday morning."
Maria Friessen "I don't know, I can't say that because I don't know."
Daniel Ortiz "Has he or any member of your family ever been criminally charged before ma'am?"
Maria Friessen "No sir, never."
But Friessen, the two Mexicans, the two police officers - one of them very senior - will be placed on remand at the Belize Central Prison, a surprising and swift outcome in this drug bust.
They were all arraigned before Senior Magistrate Aretha Ford who denied them bail, and remanded to the Belize Central Prison until November 1st.
Notably, the court ordered police to go to Orange Walk to get medication for Superintendent Chi while he is behind bars. Chi is 53 with 34 years in the department - two years away from retirement. PC Norman Anthony is 52.
This afternoon, the smell of burnt cocaine filled the Cayo air. The 1,225 pounds of cocaine that was found in Blue Creek in this Cessna 210 single engine plane 11 days ago was destroyed. The drugs were escorted by a convoy of police vehicles. Members from the GSU, BSAG, MIT, BDF, and Special Patrol guarded the drugs all the way to Pine Lumber in Georgeville for the destruction. And the team maintained their heavy presence at the site. Courtney Weatherburne was there and here is her story.
After 11 this morning, a fleet of police vehicles zoomed out of Belize City. The convoy was westbound transporting 1,225 pounds of cocaine to the Pine Lumber compound in Georgeville, where the fire raged on, feeding on scrap lumber.
While police officers and forensic personnel, dressed like surgeons, unravelled the neatly packaged parcels with pocket knives.
And then the team hurled the parcels into the blaze – just as Commander of Operations Chester Williams had said would be done.
DCP Chester Williams - Commander of Operations "When we had the press conference following the interception of the aircraft with its content, we had said at that press conference that we will be doing our best endeavour to ensure that the then suspected cocaine would be destroyed within a reasonable time because having it in our custody do possess some threat from those persons who were involve in its trafficking."
Initially there were some murmurs about whether it was really cocaine, but Williams says the lab test results confirmed that.
DCP Chester Williams "We had to get confirmation from the lab that the content of those parcels were indeed cocaine and that confirmation was obtained yesterday. We wanted the media to be there to be able to let the Belizean people know that what we indeed destroyed was cocaine - so that there are no rumours or to dispel rumours that some may want to spread in some quarters."
And now that those notions are dispelled and millions of dollars’ worth of cocaine has disintegrated into ash and smoke, it’s time to focus on the court case element.
DCP Chester Williams "I am pleased to say that we have rid ourselves of that burden and we now look forward to the matter being heard before the court when the time comes."
The drugs were found on the night of September 9th. The drugs were transported to the city on the 10th and stored at the Queen Street Police station until the parcels were burnt today.