Suspect gold smugglers acquitted

| 24/03/2020 | 42 Comments
Cayman News Service
Gold found at Heathrow Airport

(CNS): A jury reached not guilt verdicts last week on all of the charges against a group of men accused of smuggling over $6 million worth of dirty gold across international borders, believed to be the proceeds of crime. After a trial lasting more than a dozen weeks, beset by numerous delays, the men were finally acquitted Friday.

The case was complex and prosecutors were unable to present an actual crime, depending on a suspicious paper trail to prove the gold was dirty.

But the jury was not convinced, and Daniel Alberto Aguilar Ferriozi, Antonio Di Ventura Herrera and Juan Carlos Gonzales Infante, all Venezuelan nationals, walked free alongside the only local resident charged in the case, gold broker Kody Zander.

The case, which also involved the UK’s National Crime Agency, opened after cash was found under the floorboards on a private jet that had been used to transport a second shipment of gold, worth more than $2 million, in May last year. As a result, the pilot and co-pilot were the first of the group to be arrested. However, when investigators here and in London began looking at the gold, the two passengers were also arrested, and a short time later the gold broker.

The inquiry also revealed that an earlier shipment of gold, worth around $4 million, had also been shipped about a week before through Cayman to London using the same jet.

The UK investigators believed that the gold was linked to South American criminal gangs and was likely to be the proceeds of drug dealing.

But all the men who were involved denied the charges from the get-go, claiming the gold was from legitimate business sources, while Zander stated he had no reason to suspect there was anything wrong with the gold shipments. Meanwhile, the pilots denied knowing anything about the gold or the money, arguing that they were just contracted to fly the aircraft.

James Hines QC, who led the prosecutions team and presented the crown’s case, had said from the beginning of the trial that he could not prove the criminal activity that had generated the gold or where it had come from, only that the behaviour of those involved, telecommunication messages and the paper trail all showed that these shipments were not legitimate and the men were trying to launder this dirty gold.

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Category: Courts, Crime

Comments (42)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    We can’t prosecute these crimes but God forbid my passport goes out of date and the bank shuts down all my accounts.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I love goooolllllllddddd!!!

  3. Anonymous says:

    So money and gold were hidden in the floor boards of the plane. Isn’t that enough for a conviction? If I go Miami and I don’t declare my shopping items above the $500 waiver, I get prosecuted, my shopping items confiscated and I would face a prison term if found guilty. So the question is what happened to the gold?

    • Anonymous says:

      Where did it say gold was hidden in the floor boards I thought only the cash was hidden and the gold was declared ?

    • Anonymous says:

      They found the cash hidden under the floorboards of the plane. The gold was declared.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Simple reason really, if the gold was not declared the Government keeps it and they are charged with failing to declare. Case closed.

    • Anonymous says:

      That would only happen with a regime that wasn’t sympathetic to cartels, mafias, and abusive dictatorships.

    • Anonymous says:

      The gold was all declared to customs here ? The issue was the cash was not declared.

  5. Anonymous says:

    This is but one of many examples of ineptitude in the DPP’s office, bringing yet another very very costly case with a negative result. The public would be shocked if they saw the statistics of this office in relation to other jurisdictions. They bring a huge number of rubbish cases and lose a significant proportion. CSN -please ask for the stats if prosecutions and the outcomes for the past let’s say 3 years, no of prosecutors, population size and compare with Bermuda, BVI, Jersey, the UK and you will see. The DPP’s office have alot of weak lawyers from top to bottom, and there is little doubt there is an element of creating work to keep themselves employed in the sunny Cayman Islands. This mentality also extend to the police who send the rubbish nothing investigations to be adjudicated.
    This particular case ran for about 3 months 5 defendants all of who were legal aided, plus the QCs on both sides. This case it is easy to believe probably cost the Cayman Islands Government over $2million. CSN please do an information request.
    Just reading from the newspaper this was always going to be the result. How do you bring charges claiming the gold was proceeds of crime but you can’t identify the crime? This is not the first time these people brought gold to the island, there are a couple of companies here that trade and process physical gold and all done legitimately. The 135k hidden in the floor board of the aircraft is not suspicious in itself. No requirement to report that because it hasn’t entered the country. Private planes cannot be locked when they sit on the tarmac overnight so it is not suspicious to place out of easy view what is not alot on money for travel on private plane or boat by wealthy people….to pay for fuel, supplies, in this case attorneys….lol. until there is some accountability on the part of the prosecutors who charged this case and then continued it, this type if colossal muck up and embarassment will continue.

  6. Anonymous says:

    This is embarrassing for Cayman on the internarional stage. There needs to be a independent inquiry into how this went so badly awry and any incompetence or poor performance dealt with.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Typical RCIPS and no one held to account.
    Det Supt in charge of FCU needs to explain the f£@k up

  8. Anonymous says:

    Can we have a comment from the RCIPS investigating officer

  9. Anonymous says:

    This is good news! We need to strongly resist this stupid plan to classify everyone’s assets as proceeds of crime until they prove they’re not.

    All the draconian anti-business AML nonsense has been shown to stop exactly 0.02% of money laundering globally. It costs us billions of dollars in compliance costs and hours of frustration for what amounts to a rounding error.

    If law enforcement is so keen to stop the proceeds of crime entering the financial system then they need to do their job better and catch the criminals before they make off with the loot. Not rely on accountants and lawyers to catch the baddies after they’ve already gotten away with the crime.

    Innocent until proven guilty is the cornerstone of the criminal justice system and it is under attack by nosy jobs-worths who want to know where every possession you have has come from. No thanks.

    • Anonymous says:

      Whilst I agree whole heartedly about the AML/Compliance CIMA etc. overkill of businesses here – we are all brought down to the lowest level of presumption of guilt……fair is fair, this duck was quacking, waddling and selling its own eider down duvets……….

    • Anonymous says:

      In some cases your comments are legit. In many, they are not.

    • Anonymous says:

      Innocent people can explain where they get their money from. Criminals can’t explain where their wealth comes from.
      AML regulations is aimed at taking the profit out of crime and making it hard for criminals to enjoy their ill gotten gains in addition to dealing with facilitators hidden away in big buildings overlooking the Caribbean Sea.

      • Anonymous says:

        But it doesn’t work. 99.98% of those ill-gotten gains are still being enjoyed by the criminals. The AML requirements might be aimed at them but they are missing by a mile and instead hitting the law-abiding businesses and people. I would estimate 50% of the work done by our financial services industry now is AML box-ticking nonsense to prove that legitimate business is legitimate.

  10. Cayruption says:

    Crime apparently does pay, in Cayman anyway🙄

  11. Anonymous says:

    CFATF Blacklist, here we come!

  12. Anonymous says:

    So do they get their gold back ?

  13. Anonymous says:

    And yet we wonder why international regulatory bodies/law enforcement have no confidence in the Cayman Islands. A private pane loaded with gold, no paper trail as to its source and originating out of Venezuela and still we can’t get any type of convictions. Inspector Clouseau would be proud. 🤓🧐

  14. Anonymous says:

    And here we have the end result of the UK push to ‘prosecute the money’. In the UK no longer are you innocent until proven guilty, you are guilty until you prove yourself innocent. I don’t envy this jury having had to wade through that prosecution mindset to try to figure out if there was a crime here or not. Good job to them on doing their duty and it is now for all of us to decide for our political representatives what philosophy of presumed innocence or guilt we want Cayman to ascribe to. Not just in the good times, but in the bad as well.

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s actually investigate the money! Why should we allow criminals to enjoy their criminal lifestyle without challenge whilst honest Caymanians work hard and pay their dues. If you have not committed crime and have nothing to hide then you have nothing to worry about.

      • Anonymous says:

        If you have not committed and crime and have nothing to hide you still have to prove it by sending dozens of references and notarised passport copies and other crap to anyone that takes an interest, so you do have that to worry about.

        If you’re a criminal then the AML regime is extremely helpful since it’s become an exhausting box-ticking exercise for all concerned, all you have to do is fabricate a tidy set of KYC documents and no-one will look at them twice because they’re too busy asking legitimate businessmen to get their phone bills certified.

      • Anonymous says:

        If you did not commit the murder you have nothing to fear when they throw you in jail for being on the airplane with the dead body.

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