A suspected drug plane landed in Belize this morning in the Orange Walk District, near Carmelita, in the London Area, on a makeshift airstrip. The Gulfstream G2 jet reportedly landed around 1am. No illegal cargo or persons were found on the plane. However, Orange Walk Police have reportedly detained five people, including a prominent auctioneer from Carmelita Village, as the jet was partially in his farm. A Mennonite was also detained as his bulldozer was used to push the aircraft further into the private farm to keep it out of sight. A high caliber weapon was also found in the farm. Charges are expected to follow.
You could call it an Independence Day special - a drug jet that landed in northern Belize before dawn on the 21st September. Tonight, police are scouring an area off the Old Northern Highway where they believe a massive drug cargo could still be hidden somewhere. And that's because they got to the landing site, shortly after the jet touched down.
The Commissioner of Police briefed the press today at his office in Belmopan:
Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police "Sunday night, we received information of a tracking that had left South America and was heading in this region."
Police and BDF teams were deployed to various possible landing sites in the north.
Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police "We monitored the track throughout the night and sometime around two a.m. Monday, we were told that the plane had landed somewhere in the north, but we could not have ascertained the exact location, because when the plane dropped off the radar we were not able to continue monitoring."
And that's where the Mexican air support came in, spotting ground activity in the northern Orange Walk District, off the old northern highway - near the area known as "London":
Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police "The Mexican provided air assets that flew over and subsequently saw the plane in the area of Corozalito and that Neuland area."
Police rushed there and found a Gulfstream Jet, that was empty inside pushed into the bush. a recently cleared illegal runway, some light refreshments and a lot of heavy equipment - including a bulldozer that had been hauled there on this trailer:
Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police "Subsequent investigation into the landing of the plane led to the detention of 5 individuals. Those persons are in police custody as the investigation continues. One of the persons detained is the owner of the farm on which the plane landed. Another person is a Mennonite who owns a bulldozer that was also found on the scene and we believe that the bulldozer was used to cart the plane off the road and pushed into some bushes. We also found a tractor with a bush-hog that we believe was use to clear the area. A number of lights were found that we believe were used to illuminate the airstrip or the makeshift airstrip for the landing of the plane. We also found power saw that was used to cut down some posts along the road and we found some motorcycles that we believe were used by some of the persons who assisted in the landing of the plane."
Police are ready to charge two of those 5 men
Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police "We should be able to charge at least two individuals, that is the owner of the farm and the Mennonite who owns the bulldozer - both of whom we have received reliable information and evidence to suggest that they were on site when the plane landed. If a matter of fact the Mennonite and the owner had also left, but they were met by the police not too far from the farm after the plane had landed. So we could have tied them to the scene and then when we subsequently check we found out that the farm belong to one of them and not only does the farm belong to him, but he also controls the gate, he had the key for the gate - everything. There is practically good evidence against those 2 individuals - the bulldozer guy and the farm owner."
Police continued scouring the area today looking for the drug cargo.
Jules Vasquez, reporter "Sir, where are the drugs?"
Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police "Like I said we believe it's still somewhere in the country. We are trying to see if we can track it down. We don't think that it has left the country. We are hoping that it is still here and we will be able to find it."
Reporter "Any suspicions as to how the drugs were removed from the area?"
Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police "It was removed into 2 vehicles. I'm not going to go into specifics. We do have information that there may be some Mexicans involved in the transporting and facilitating the landing."
And, we must ask, was law enforcement involved?
Jules Vasquez, reporter "Empirical evidence or history has shown that the volume of drugs is tons. Last time when you all had intercepted that jet, it was on to 2 tons of cocaine. I'm saying that I would think even with manual labor it takes quite a while to clear it out. Is there any chance that there was collusion by any element of law enforcement in facilitating this movement of what may be over a ton of cocaine?"
Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police "If there was, I could assure you that those elements would have been in custody. At this time we have nothing to suggest that."
In fact police say their work over the past many months has deterred these flights:
Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police "Through our efforts we have been able to deter many from landing. As a matter of fact I think this is our first landing in almost 4 months and it is not for the lack of trying, because every night including last night we had tracking coming our way, but our efforts have been exceptional in deterring them from landing, but we cannot stop all of them from landing."
The plane - which could not be flown due to deliberate damage done to it by the smugglers - was taken out of the area on a trailer yesterday.
Again, police are certain the drugs are going or have gone north, and because of the landing area - believe it has or will be moved by sea.
Independence Day Drug Plane; 5 Men are Detained, including a Minor
On Independence Day, a drug plane landing just outside of Santa Martha Village in the Orange Walk District. Five persons, including the owner of the farm, a Mennonite, a farmhand and a minor, are detained and charges are expected to be placed on them. Police did not find the drugs, but found a number of items near the clandestine airfield including motorcycles, lights and a power saw. This afternoon, Marcel Cardona, the attorney for the detained persons claimed that the farmhand and the minor were held hostage by a group of armed masked men.
Re: Independence Day Drug Plane
#545116 09/25/2004:52 AM09/25/2004:52 AM
ComPol Believes that Property Owner Knew About Runway and Drug Plane Landing
There were a lot of noises when a drug plane was found at a farm on Independence Day. An investigation into the suspected drug plane in northern Belize is ongoing, though a property owner on whose farm the aircraft landed has been charged and arraigned but not in relation to the drug plane. Noel Codd was one of six persons detained, he was formally charged before the Magistrate’s Court in Orange Walk on Wednesday for possession of prohibited ammunition. Today, police revealed that he had knowledge of the construction of a makeshift runway on his two hundred acre property, as well as the arrival of the aircraft on September twenty-first but no charges have been placed on him for the drug plane. And according to Commissioner of Police Chester Williams, the department is awaiting instructions from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions on how to proceed with the case.
On the Phone: Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police
“That matter in respect to the suspected drug plane landing in Orange Walk District is still under investigation. The police is working under the guidance of the Director of Public Prosecutions whereby whatever statements and other evidence that have been obtained are being forwarded to the D.P.P. and the D.P.P. then provides advice to the police. Certain instructions have been given to the police by the D.P.P. for compliance and the police are in the process of adhering to those instructions after which the D.P.P. is going to make a final determination in terms of how we proceed with the matter.”
“Can you explain, if you are at liberty to do so, how Mr. Codd became a suspect in this entire ordeal, in respect of his property and the aircraft landing on his farm?”
On the Phone: Chester Williams
“Well, I listened to my good friend [Richard] “Dickie” [Bradley’s] interview last night and I must say he’s a very clever fellow and in his interview he said certain things which I will categorically refute. You would know that to prepare an airstrip for a plane to land, especially a jet, is not an overnight thing, it requires some work and it is obvious that that airstrip or the makeshift airstrip on which the plane landed was being worked on for a number of days and that farm, may I say, is a full-time farm we believe that Mr. Codd operated which means that he had workers on that farm every day. I also heard Mr. Bradley say that these persons were tied up and this, that and that by the persons we suspect are the cartels. That is not really so at all, so I don’t know where that information came from that Mr. Bradley alluded to yesterday. Our investigation is not saying that and as I said before, we believe that Mr. Codd must have known of the construction of that airstrip when it was being constructed and he also had knowledge of the plane when it landed because we have information, we also have statements, as a matter of fact, to that effect. So that is how he came about to become a suspect, but at the end of the day, like I said, we are not going to be the ones that are going to judge the evidence. If the D.P.P. directs that we charge and we do so, then it’s a matter for the court to decide whether or not the court will believe that Mr. Codd knew nothing about the construction of that airstrip and that he knew nothing about the plane landing on an airstrip on his farm. So that is where I am going to leave that for now.”
All 6 Persons Detained for Independence Day Drug Plane Landing are Released
All six persons detained from Orange Walk in connection with recent suspect drug plane landing on a farm off the Old Northern Highway have been released. Just before news time, the last person, Noel Codd, who is the owner of the farm on which the plane made a clandestine landing, was released from police custody, having been detained since Monday morning. Codd and four of his farmhands as well as Isaac Petka, a Mennonite man from Shipyard Village, were detained on Monday.
Two days later, the four employees were released, including a seventeen-year-old minor. That same day, Codd was arraigned in the Orange Walk Magistrate’s Court for possession of a prohibited ammunition and given bail, but was immediately taken back into custody pending charges relating to the facilitation of a plane landing in an unregistered aerodrome. Petka also remained in detention at the station until Thursday afternoon when he was released without charges; there are allegations that he was being pushed by investigators to give a statement implicating Codd in the illegal activity.
ComPol Chester Williams has gone on record to say that the department has evidence to suggest that Codd knew of the illegal activity and was part of the crime, but that the department was waiting on directives from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. Well that has not happened and another forty-eight hours had expired so the department had to release Codd. News Five has confirmed with Codd’s attorney that his cell phone remains in police custody.
Last week we told you about the drug plane that landed in the Orange Walk District. One man was charged but for an unrelated offense. Noel Codd was charged for a single round of prohibited ammunition found on his 260-acre farm in the London area of the old Northern Highway. But since then he hasn't been charged for any drug plane-related offense even though the plane landed on his farm.
All this despite the fact that the Commissioner claimed he would be charged for facilitating a plane landing on an illegal aerodrome. This morning we asked the head on NCIB why it hasn't happened.
Joseph Myvette, ACP-Head N.C.I.B "There is no new update the investigation is still ongoing and no Noel Codd was not charged he was released. The investigation still continues."
Reporter "Sir, the last time police seemed sure that they had enough to charge these men with something?"
Joseph Myvette, ACP-Head N.C.I.B "After what we had was submitted it needed further work so he was released pending further investigation."
Police Say Investigation into Noel Codd’s Connection to Drug Plane is Ongoing
Last week we told you that Noel Codd – the owner of the farm where the drug plane landed on Independence Day on the Northern Highway – wasn’t charged for facilitating the landing of airplane. That is what the cops wanted to charge him with but in the end he was charged for an entirely different matter. Codd was slapped with a charge of possession of a single round of prohibited ammunition. Today, we asked ACP Joseph Myvett for an update and why Codd wasn’t charged in connection with the airplane landing. Here’s what he had to say.
ACP Joseph Myvett, Head, National Crimes Investigation Branch
“The investigation is still ongoing and no, Noel Codd wasn’t charged. He was released and the investigation still continues.”
“Sir, the last time police seemed sure that they had enough to charge these men with something?”
ACP Joseph Myvett
“No, but I would say that after what we had was submitted needed further work and so he was release pending further investigation.”