‘Dirty gold’ was proceeds of crime, says QC

| 05/12/2019
Cayman News Service
Gold found at Heathrow Airport (Photo courtesy NCA)

(CNS): James Hines QC said $6 million worth of ‘dirty gold’ transferred through the Cayman Islands by a group of Venezuelan nationals earlier this year derived from a crime that has not been identified. But opening the crown’s case against five defendants accused of money laundering and conspiracy to conceal criminal property, Hines told the jury that, despite not knowing the exact criminality that generated this gold, the crown would show that it was the proceeds of wrongdoing.

As he outlined the case against Daniel Alberto Aguilar Ferriozi, Antonio Di Ventura Herrera, Pedro Jose Benavidez Natera, Juan Carlos Gonzales Infante and Kody Zander. the prosecutor explained that the way the group behaved and the actions they took relating to this gold, as well as $135,000 in cash found hidden under the floor panelling of the private jet they used to ship the ill-gotten gains, shows that it came from criminality.

He said it could be that the gold was stolen or acquired from illegal mines, it could be from unlawful currency exchange or already be the proceeds of money laundering from another type of crime. “The prosecution cannot say for certain what that crime is but this,” Hines said, referring to the dirty gold, “is the proceeds of crime.”

He said the jury must be sure that it is from a criminal act before they convict any of the defendants on any of the charges they face, even though they may not be certain during the trial what the crime is that generated the gold.

Hines explained that when it is not easy to see the crime, it is the actions of those involved and the way that the proceeds are handled that will indicate that it is criminal property. The QC said the case was based on powerful circumstantial evidence that would lead the jury to infer that the gold came from criminality. Hines said this case “has all the hallmarks of smuggling and money laundering”.

From the concealing of cash and their conflicting stories to the sham paperwork that was supposed to reflect the gold’s transaction history before it was brought here, as well as the behaviour of the people involved, the jury would, over the course of the trial, also see evidence suggesting connections to the Naples Mafia and the Cali Cartel, Hines said.

Four of the defendants were arrested and detained in Cayman in May after they arrived on a private jet with what the authorities learned was a second consignment of gold shipped on the same plane just a few weeks apart. The fifth defendant is a local precious metal broker who handled both of the gold consignments and forwarded them to London, bound for a company in Switzerland. But neither of the shipments made it to Zürich after they were stopped in London and an international investigation began.

Who owns the gold, what are its origins, where did it come from, where has it been and why was it shipped through the Cayman Islands are questions central to the case that remain mysterious, the prosecutor told the jury. He also said that to date, no one has claimed this $6 million haul of gold.

Hines is expected to continue his opening address to the jury Thursday in a trial that has been described as one of the most complex criminal cases ever heard in Cayman. It is expected to last until February.

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