Important Note: This Internet version of 7 News is a verbatum
transcript of our evening television news script. Many interviews on our newscast
are conducted in Creole. In the interest of clarity for our foreign readers,
we attempt to paraphrase the Creole quotes in English
On the Tenth of September, the story should be all about the Citizens' Parade, but, instead, tonight, it's about a grenade that was found yesterday in the territory of the Ghost Town Crips on Mayflower Street. It was in the overgrowth under a mango tree just a short distance from the street side. It's the second live grenade found in that gang's territory in four days - a very disturbing discovery for police, and for the society generally, because it suggests that public terror is at hand.
The first person police called was General David Jones, who was just leaving the official ceremonies for the Tenth September at the Memorial Park. He went directly to the scene and took possession of the grenade. We met him an hour later at Price Barracks where he told us what makes this grenade different and very frightening:...
Jules Vasquez reporting
This is the grenade that the police found on Saturday in an abandoned lot - five meters from the side of road. It's an old ugly thing, blotched with rust, but still very deadly:
BRIG. GEN. David Jones, Commander BDF/Explosives Expert "It is frightening because this grenade was actually armed. There are two pins that are supposed to be on this grenade; one has already been remove, the other one is on, so it's just a matter of pulling the other one and that grenade would have been ready to fire. It has the same lethal thing like the British defensive grenade. It's also a defensive grenade, so the casualty radius is up to about 200 meters. Heavy casualties is within 50 meters and lethal within 15 meters would have kill anybody within that radius."
And that radius was a densely populated area where children are known to play:
BRIG. GEN. David Jones, Commander BDF/Explosives Expert "It's an area where it's obvious that children would have been playing there. A child could have gone and picked up this grenade and played with it and not sure what it was and could have detonated because the first clip has already been removed. If a child had picked that up it would have been a frightening situation where he could have been ki8lled."
And it was not exactly artfully concealed:
BRIG. GEN. David Jones, Commander BDF/Explosives Expert "It was in a plastic bag wrapped up and there were about 3 more plastic bags inside the actual grenade itself. After inspection I realize it was an American type grenade and after confirmation realized it was an M26A1 fragmentation grenade."
So, this is an American type grenade, not the British type, meaning that underworld groups are now sourcing their grenades from different areas:
BRIG. GEN. David Jones, Commander BDF/Explosives Expert "The concern now is not only the British grenades are on the streets, now we have American type grenades on the street. The question is where are these coming in from and the problem would be to try and find out where they are to stop people from using these because these are very lethal grenades."
Even more alarming is the appearance that this was about to be used:
BRIG. GEN. David Jones, Commander BDF/Explosives Expert "It is very possible that this would have been use shortly because it was park in an area , pins were already removed, so it was just a matter to pull the other pin and throw it and knowing that the celebrations are on its pretty frighten to see that these grenades are actually on the streets. We have to remain vigilant for the rest of the celebration fever because this is an indication that these guys probably will use grenades during this time because they are being found on the streets of Belize City."
Like we said, a very troubling discovery, and no one is more aware of that than Senior Superintendent of Police Edward Broaster.
He's the one who actually got the tip that there was a grenade on Mayflower Street. Today, Broaster brief the media about the circumstances surrounding the tip, and how it ended up in police hands. Here's what he told us:
Sr. Superintendent Edward Broaster - Deputy OCED "The call came in at 10 o' clock and as soon as we got that call we went to the area. We cordon off the area, we search and we discovered one American type grenade. Fortunately for us the bomb expert was at the ceremonial service at the Memorial Park and he was called in and he came and secure that grenade and took it away for disposal. This is the second grenade that we have discovered within a week and we are working with the community, with other who are embracing the campaign "not in my city" to recover more grenades off the streets of Belize City."
"Also in that seizure we discover a .38 revolver which we seized as well. The area where we found this grenade is empty lot, it's over grown and the grenade was found under some bushes near a fence. The American type grenade have been used by most of Central American neighbors, particularly Nicaragua, Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. We know that the British grenade, there was a crate of 24 that went missing from the British camp, but as it pertains to the American grenade we cannot say directly as to where it came from at this time."
And going back to what General Jones said about his security concerns because it is September when there are so many mass gatherings, today, we asked Broaster what his intelligence says about security threat levels during the celebrations:..
Sr. Superintendent Edward Broaster - Deputy OCED "I cannot say where we will find them but I can tell you that this grenade was placed there by an individual and we got the call that the person placed the grenade there and I won't go into further details as to that because we are following up on investigation on that aspect."
Reporter "Again it's September and there seem to be some linkage with September and grenades."
Sr. Superintendent Edward Broaster - Deputy OCED "From the intelligence and the information that we've gathered through our investigation there is no intention to lodge any grenade in any mass crowd as it pertains to carnival or any of the parade, in particular this last one. We don't have any information to suggest that it would have been used in any of these festivities."
But, it seems as though, as the proverb goes, no good deed goes unpunished. That's because in this case, there has been quite a bit of skepticism and suspicion coming from the public about the true origin of those grenades. Some have even questioned if it is police themselves who are planting these grenades to raise the profile of the department. It's the kind of thing you don't even want to entertain, but, it's out there, so, today, we put that question to Broaster, and here's how he responded:
Sr. Superintendent Edward Broaster - Deputy OCED "That narrative there is definitely ludicrous. We would never do anything to endanger the life of the public. As a matter of fact this American grenade is much more dangerous according to Brigadier General Jones than the British grenade and we would never ever do any such thing to put or jeopardize the lives of the public."
But whether skeptic or true believer, numbers don't lie - and the fact is, tonight, two grenades are in BDF custody awaiting destruction. On Monday's news, we told you that the one found on Banak Street was the British type, presumably part of the lot of 24 that went missing from BATSUB Headquarters in 2004. But, on closer analysis, Jones says the Banak grenade is not British; it is American. He explained:..
BRIG. GEN. David Jones, Commander BDF/Explosives Expert "The grenade that was retrieve last week is of similar grade as this grenade, it's not the British type, it's the American M26. In particular the other grenade, the one that was retrieve last week - that is really in a dangerous situation. It is pretty corroded at the top of it and it's in a situation where you don't really would need to pull the pin for it to function, it could have function without pulling the pin because of the corrosion on that particular grenade. This one is in a better condition. It is still corroded, but we plan to dispose of these grenade by destruction sometime this week or perhaps next week."
The type of Grenade found on the tenth was an M 26, and the type found last week was an M-67.
It was not publicized at the time, but 7News has confirmed 2 years ago police intercepted two Honduran men on a bus with a pair of American grenades - similar to the ones found on Banak and Mayflower. They said they had brought them from Honduras to Belize to sell to gangs for 500 dollars each.
When we left you on Friday night, police were still at the Matalon Building on Coney Drive collecting all documents, computers and business records from the office of Titan International Securities - which is on the fourth floor.
As we told you, police swept into their offices at around 1:00pm and barred anyone form coming or going, including Titan's local attorney Andrew Marshalleck.
We saw three police vehicles there, which is a lot for white collar crime - especially when no crime has been committed under Belize laws. But those vehicles were far from sufficient for the monster job of collecting an office-full of documents.
And by 5:30 pm, a cargo truck with government plates had pulled up to collect everything. We had seen this same truck, minus the police at the Roe building called Gordon House earlier in the afternoon. Significant, because that is the headquarters for Unicorn International Securities - another one of the offshore companies named in the US indictment which was unsealed on Tuesday in New York.
But enforcement of that US indictment was carried out in Belize as part of the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty between this country and the United States. But, it was a big job; the cargo truck wasn't enough and police pickups, had to pull up to carry away some of Titan's records.
After one pickup bed was full - another pulled up, and the purpose of those American flags emblazoned on the front fender became clearer than ever. The police officers from the US funded anti drug unit were doing the heavy lifting nominally for the Financial Intelligence unit, but really for the US Department of Justice. They removed thousands of documents, all of which really have no use to Belizean law enforcement - and will presumably be handed over to the US.
After they filled up all the pickups, they then had to bring an SUV - this one without a US Flag on it - for the remainder of the Titan's possessions.
Another police SUV, this one with a US flag also had to be filled up - using every container possible - up to garbage bins - from the Titan office. In all, it didn't end until just after 9:00pm - eight hours after it started at 1:00 pm. It was a massive operation between police and the Financial Intelligence Unit, involving more than a dozen police officers, and at least six police vehicles. But, an unusual operation because no one was arrested or detained. And the three persons who were in the building and have been named in the US indictment, were free to go, without any limitation on their movement. They are 51 year old Belizean ANDREW GODFREY,34 year old Bahamian KELVIN LEACH and 29 year old Bahamian Rohn Knowles. Leach and Knowles are principals in Titan, while Godfrey also has an office on the fourth floor.
According to a release on Tuesday form the US Department of Justice, they will seek to extradite all three persons to face trial in the United States. But, no extradition procedures have been initiated with Belizean authorities so they are free to move in and out of Belize tonight - but travelling to the US would likely result in an arrest.
That's where US citizen Bob Bandfield is in Federal custody tonight. He was well known in Belize's Offshore Banking circles as a dealmaker. And, according to the FBI, that's just what got him in trouble. According to an official release, quote, "Bandfield and his co-conspirators devised not only a fraudulent scheme but an elaborate corporate structure based on lies and deceit designed to enable U.S. citizens to evade and circumvent our securities and tax laws." End quote.
Presumably, they did all this though Belize where they had a number of offshore banking operations. This is big news in the States, and the website "stocksecrets.com" says that the bust is part of a two year undercover operation by an FBI agent during which the agent, pretending to be a stock promoter, visited Belize to meet with some of the alleged conspirators and set up offshore entities.
The FBI says it also has recording where Bandfield and Godfrey explained a scheme in which they claimed they could launder fifty thousand dollars a month.
And while those are the allegations mede in the states, these companies are duly registered and licensed as offshore service providers in Belize, where they have committed no offence.
And the news is this story is, the lengths Belizean authorities now have to go to in order to carry out enforcement for and on behalf of authorities - even when that enforcement casts a blight on the entire offshore sector in Belize.
US Authorities allege that the accused persons laundered approximately $500 million us dollars for more than 100 U.S. citizens and residents. They face charges in the US of conspiracy to commit securities fraud, tax fraud, and money laundering among many others.
And while we have named only four persons, there are six corporate defendants - all Belize based offshore entities, and six individual defendants, namely, Bandfield, Godfrey, Leach, Knowles along with Brian De Wit and Cam Can, both reportedly Canadians, well-known to operate in Belize, but are believed to have left the country some time ago.
Less than a month ago, we told you about a Toyota Hilux that had been stolen from The Ministry of Health in Belmopan - the third truck theft from that Ministry in two years. And now, incredibly, another was stolen this weekend.
Apparently the driver parked the white 2008 Hilux truck in the Ministry of Health compound on Tuesday night at 9 and when the driver arrived at work this morning at about 6:30 the vehicle was gone. The CEO of the Ministry, Dr. Peter Allen told us via text, quote "We are incredibly frustrated. We have requests at finance to improve security with cameras and GPS and other such things but funds would need to be authorized." As early as last month, one of 11 2014 Hilux vehicles assigned to the Vector Control Unit was stolen as well. Police are investigating.
Of the now four vehicles stolen from the ministry in two years, only one has been recovered. That was with a concerted media effort - including the circulation of pictures of the stolen truck, which no one at the Ministry has bothered to do this time, because, form all that we can tell, no one really can be bothered to do so.
On Tuesday, we told you about the allegation of outrageous police brutality which came from Grace Flowers, the well-known Justice of the Peace who lives on West Canal in Belize City.
She told us that police took her nephew, 19 year-old Armani Bailey, to an area at Mile 4 on the Western Highway where they tried to drown him in a garbage bin, after they contemplated shooting him.
The family says that they've made an official complaint, and today, we asked the Deputy Commander of Eastern Division about the investigation. He told us that an officer from the Professional Standards Branch is now investigating:
Sr. Superintendent Edward Broaster - Deputy OCED "The report was made and we have our professional standard branch investigating that matter thoroughly. If the allegation is found to be true, these officers will be dealt with according to the police regulation."
Jules Vasquez "Were you alarm of hearing her version of the report? Did you consider it excessive just on theory her version of it?"
Sr. Superintendent Edward Broaster - Deputy OCED "The version of what she explained, yes."
Jules Vasquez "Have you sought to speak with any of your officers in eastern division just informally outside the investigation to find out what happen with Grace nephew?"
Sr. Superintendent Edward Broaster - Deputy OCED "I have not spoken to the officers involved. Like I said the professional standard branch is investigating the matter thoroughly. However, we continuously on a daily basis implore on our officers to be professional in carrying out their duties."
Jules Vasquez "Are you concern with all the reports of abuse that came out of last weekend? We know that on Monday morning complainants were lining up here at the station. Are you aware of surplus of complaints, an irregularly high number?"
Sr. Superintendent Edward Broaster - Deputy OCED "I would not say a surplus of complaints but like I said the complaints that we are receiving will be investigated and if officers found to be in breach of their professional and ethical standard of the department they will be dealt with."
Jules Vasquez "Was there an operation on where you all were trying to clean up of the city and perhaps intimidate criminal elements leading into the September celebrations?"
Sr. Superintendent Edward Broaster - Deputy OCED "Not so. We have our "not in my city" operation being carried out on a daily basis from since June and like I said this operation will continue indefinitely, but any officer who found to be in breach of our police standing orders will be dealt with."
Broaster told the media that he has been informed of 4 separate brutality complaints made against police on Monday.
On Tuesday, opposition Senator Lisa Shoman called out the Special Envoy for Women and Children Kim Barrow to make a statement on the domestic abuse allegations against Patrick Faber.
And today, the special envoy's office issued a statement that didn't name Faber but saying, quote, "violence against women…is unacceptable and a gross violation of human rights." The statement quotes Mrs. Barrow as encouraging women and men to report acts of violence and follow through with legal proceedings…" which is what didn't happen in the case with Faber and his 25 year old girlfriend. The statement adds quote, "The Domestic Violence Act is there to provide protection and the Police Department has an obligation to respond to all reports of domestic violence regardless of the perpetrator."
The statement closes by saying that
Mrs. Barrow's Office will work with stakeholders to review legislation…with a view to ensuring increased protection to victims of domestic violence.
2 problem crocodiles were taken from San Pedro today. The two females are being relocated to the ACES facility in Ladyville. Croc expert Chris Summers told us more about the 9 footers:..
Chris Summers, Crocodile Conservationist - ACES "We found these. There were in a lagoon behind an ocean side resort where development is going on. There is a restaurant out at the back there for the construction workers and they have been discarding their scraps in the lagoon which is essentially feeding the crocodiles. It might not be directly feeding them like it used to be with the tourist attraction but it's still indirect feeding which as we all know that feeding crocodiles takes away their natural fear of man which causes them to associate man with food which is when they become dangerous, so that why we are taking them to the sanctuary so can't be danger to themselves or to people."
"Seeing them is good, it's safely learning to co-exist with them, that's part of what our education program is about, so not feeding the crocodiles - that's the main thing. Do not feed crocodiles under any circumstances whether you are throwing it to them purposely and the big thing that's coming across now is improper garbage disposal. Like you are fishing at the water's edge and you are cleaning your scraps there, take them and discard them somewhere else. Do throw them right there in the water's edge because that again is going to attract crocodiles and main safety, dusk and dawn is not to be swimming because that's when they like to hunt. Stay away from the water and the water's edge at dusk and dawn."
One of the biggest catches was George, who weighed 14ft.
It seems the 10th of September is still fighting a battle: every year, it has to fight for recognition against other events of greater historical significance, like independence, and events which have more popular pull, like Carnival. But, the Tenth battles on, as faded as the glory of the Baymen, but still clinging to its importance as an existential national event.
How did it fare this year? Courtney Weatherburne tells us:
Courtney Weatherburne reporting
As per protocol, the Head of State (GG) and the Head of Government (PM) and other government officials took front row at the 10th Day official opening ceremony. Mayor Darrel Bradley's address focused on the valor and loyalty of the Baymen and the importance of leading such a life.
Darrel Bradley, Mayor, Belize City "Celebrating today and in honoring the Baymen, our greatest tribute to them is to live like them, that we can sing and dance and march together, but that we also strive to learn from the Baymen and to follow their example of facing struggle with dignity and determination, that 216 years from now, people will gather together to celebrate how we live and our example that we were men and women of principle and courage embracing sacrifice with humility and patient endurance boldly charting the way forward for this our Belizean nation with optimism and a spirit of service and sacrifice."
Following the Mayor's address, Chairman of the National Celebrations Commission Manuel Heredia Jr. spoke about upcoming renovation projects to maintain and preserve Belize's historical and cultural heritage.
Manuel Heredia, Chairman, National Celebrations Commission "It is therefore my honor and delight to announce the commencement of a 3 year - 40 million dollars project spearheaded by the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Civil Aviation, the National Institute of Culture and History and the Belize City Council for the rehabilitation of colonial resources within what is considered as the old historic downtown of Belize City. Under this project the current Belize City House of Culture will be transformed and establish as the national colonial museum of Belize."
After the official speeches, there was the installation of the 69th Queen of the Bay. And after the formalities of the official ceremonies, the Citizens Parade wound through the city streets. We picked it up in front of our studio on Albert Street where it was hardly lively, owing to the downpour which had killed most of the sound systems, lending the march an unusually somber air.
But, as they say, the rain can't stop the bram, and indeed, it didn't hold back citizens or government officials from jumping up.
That's right! Under the deluge, an infectious flare of frenzy and excitement ruled.
The rain didn't chase away the spectators either, as they stood huddled together under small umbrellas, engrossed in the hype of the day.
Even the queens, in their royal regalia embraced the liberation unleashed by the torrent.
And after the rain subsided, so did the spirits of citizens. People began to disperse, soaked and soiled but with memories of a wet and wild 10th of September.
We usually compare the jump-up to previous years - and this one was lighter and less spirited than last year when it passed our studios, but, like Milli Vanilli, you can blame it on the rain!
71 year-old American Mohammad Es Sudan, a resident of Atlanta Georgia, was deported today by the Immigration Department, after it was discovered that he had been living illegally in the country for 2 years and 4 months.
On Tuesday, immigration officers went to the airport where Sudan had been detained. When they checked his records, it showed that he travelled to Belize on May 17, 2012, and he was given one month to leave. But, her overstayed up until the time he was detained. When they checked his story, he said he came here to marry a Belizean woman, presumably to get citizenship, but it never happened.
He was then charged with the immigration offence of failing to comply with a visitor's permit, and he was arraigned today before Magistrate Dale Cayetano. He pleaded guilty to the offence, and was fined $1,000 to be paid forthwith. He was able to pay his fine, and by the strength of a deportation order, Immigration Officers escorted Sudan back to the airport this afternoon to be ejected.
As we've told you, over the past few days, Belize City police have been on high alert, conducting checkpoints at different parts of the city as part of the security for the September Celebrations. It seems as though one citizen was annoyed by it, and he allegedly ran a checkpoint, almost knocking down a police officer.
Constable Michelle Brown stopped 52 year-old Patrick Guild yesterday on Mahogany Street, and the officer requested that he show his driver's licenses and other documents for his vehicle. The officer says that while she was reviewing them, Guild allegedly grabbed them out of her hand and angrily asked her if she didn't know who he is. He then sped off, and in the process he grazed Corporal Jane Usher with his vehicle. He was then detained, where he reportedly resisted arrest and insulted the officers.
After they finally got him to the station, he was charged with assaulting a police officer, using insulting words, obstruction, and resisting arrest. He was arraigned before Magistrate Dale Cayetano today, where he pleaded not guilty, and was released on bail of $800. He must return to court on November 6.
Yesterday, the Belize National Team, the Jaguars, played their third and final match of the UNCAF Copa Centroamericana - or Nations Cup in Houston, Texas. It was a matchup against El Salvador, and at the end of the 94 minutes of play time, the Jaguars lost that match with a score of two-nil - the third game in a row in which two goals had been scored on Belize.
So, in the overall tournament, Belize placed last, a heartbreaking defeat, when just last year, the team placed fourth and in so doing, qualified for the Gold Cup.
But there is no glory this year, just last place, 7th out of 7, so today, when the team returned home, we got a reaction from them about the dismal performance.
Leroy Sherrier - Head Coach, National Team "We play better that the last tournament and we had the opportunity to put some young guys to play and that was satisfactory for me, so I feel good because it's very difficult to change players to bring in new players to put in the player line - it's very hard and this time I feel good because Casey and Delon and some other young players get their big opportunity."
Reporter "Coach it's almost as if though we are parading losses though. At the end of the day as fans of football we want to see optimal performance."
Leroy Sherrier - Head Coach, National Team "Well it depends on your perspective. We start practice two weeks ago. I took over the team 2 weeks ago. The last time was 3 months and what we did, the way we played football this time in just two weeks I feel very good. Just imagine if we had 3-4 months practicing."
Shane Orio - Goal Keeper, National Team "We know that there is lots of thing back home that we need to train our national team and it's not an excuse, but our national team only trained for 2-3 weeks and that's a big difference. We need to change that because I am in Guatemala and the Guatemala national team have been training for at least two months and a half, so again we didn't win any game but I think that it was one of the best show Belize had. Again, with individual mistakes, like my mistake in the second goal, like Smith auto goal and Jaro auto goal. But hopefully the country can see what happened and what we did and to be proud of the guys."
Player "I think if we had more time together we would have played better and we would had have a better game, but you have to blame that on other people, you can't blame that on us."
Ian Gaynair - Defence, Belize National Team "I think if you are not well prepared for this kind of thing, this is the result and I think we are the team that belongs to come back home because we weren't well prepared. I am tired to just going to participate and have to come back home as the tournament is finish. To be the first team to come back, it really hurts to know that you are trying and that you are getting older and then your career is finishing in football. I just wish that next time we are well prepared to play those tournaments. I don't think I will do that again if we call a camp in 3 weeks or a month - I don't think I will participate in that because that is just participation - that is not to compete and reach the next level. Everything I get in I always want to win. But nevertheless I still will not hold my head down because I know that all of us went out there and we tried. We only work 2-3 weeks together like that and we did our best still."
Woodrow West - Goal Keeper, National Team "The preparation was very poor and I believe that was the failing point for us and comparing to the last tournament we were well prepared and we did have better players than what we have now, but we were in condition to compete against those guys and that's why we were qualified that time. We had about 3 weeks of training and problem with coaching; our coach came in like 1-2 weeks before the tournament. I think that is where we fail to qualify in this tournament."
Daniel Ortiz "The first game we took of our own goals. What was your reaction in seeing that? We lost by those two goals when we could have gotten a point. That must have hurt."
Leroy Sherrier - Head Coach, National Team "I don't want to point fingers. It hurts, but nobody tried to score a goal intentionally."
Woodrow West - Goal Keeper, National Team "It wasn't an embarrassment. It's part of football. It happen on the highest level in the world. It was disappointing because if that didn't happen we could have gotten a point out of that game."
Daniel Ortiz "How does a player come back from that mentally when you scored a goal and it has counted against you?"
Dalton Eiley - Defence, National team "It's hard, you just need to rise above it, you have others games to play. I think the first game was an example of that. We had Jaro James and Elroy Smith and Elroy Smith is one of our biggest player here in Belize and Jaro came in and he did his work and you just have to put it behind you and move on. You have more games to play."
Marlon Kuylen - Executive Member, FFB "Myself as all our fans and our Belizeans at home and abroad we have a high expectation. We expect that every time we play we at least draw or win. Unfortunately this time it did not happen. When you have problems at the top, it trickles down. The FFB has to take a lot of blame for this."
The countries which have qualified for the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup are Costa Rica and Guatemala, which will compete against each other for 1st place, and El Salvador and Panama, which will compete for third place. The fifth and final qualifier will emerge from the fifth place match between Honduras and Nicaragua. These 3 final matches will take place on September 13 on Los Angeles.
What's wrong with the Haulover Bridge? Reports that it had structural problems surfaced recently on social media, and tonight, the Ministry of Works is starting an urgent round of what it calls maintenance works. The ministry sent out a release informing the public that the bridge will be closed tonight from 10.00 PM to 3.00 AM. The Ministry appeals to the General Public to drive with care when approaching the Bridge and adhere to all safety measures near the work site.
The bridge at mile 5 on the Northern Highway was recently targeted for renovation.