More arrests, charges in gold smuggling case

| 01/08/2019
Cayman News Service
Gold found at Heathrow Airport (Photo courtesy NCA)

(CNS): Four Venezuelan nationals who are all implicated in a complex $6 million gold smuggling operation, which the UK’s National Crime Agency has said is linked to South American drug cartels, appeared in court this week for pre-trial hearings, facing more related charges. It was also revealed that another person, who is connected to the precious metal broker who assisted with the processing of the gold in Cayman, has also been arrested, though he has not been charged and is on police bail.

Daniel Aguilar-Ferriozzi and Francisco Di Ventura Herrera, who were passengers on a private jet that was seized by the authorities here in May, and the pilots of the plane, Pedro Jose Benavides Natera and Juan Carlos Gonzales Infante, have all denied the charges against them as the case winds its way towards a trial.

According to the authorities here, the plane, which arrived in the Cayman Islands in mid-May from Venezuela via the Dominican Republic, was carrying over CI$4 million worth of gold, which was declared. It was the second time that month that the same plane and pilots had arrived carrying gold.

On both occasions it was processed by Byzantium, a Cayman-based broker, to be shipped to Switzerland via London.

When local authorities investigating the gold shipments found significant discrepancies between the declarations made to customs by the Venezuelan men and the paperwork held by the brokers describing the origins and journey of the gold, the plane was searched and around $135,000 in cash was found hidden in the floor panels.

The pilots were then arrested and charged over the cash. Soon afterwards, the two passengers, who had taken the gold to the brokers, were also arrested and charged for money laundering. They have since also been charged with smuggling.

The gold, which had made its way to London, has also since been seized by the UK crime agency, as the widening investigation continues, involving several other jurisdictions and crime fighting agencies.

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Category: Courts, Crime

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