US wants Curacao gold smuggling investigated

WILLEMSTAD, Curacao, Wednesday January 30, 2013 – Hot on the heels of the confiscation of 11 gold bars sent by mail from Curacao to Puerto Rico, United States authorities are speaking out.

The Curacao Chronicle reports that in a letter dated January 21, United States authorities asked the local (Curacao) authorities to investigate gold smuggling cases between Curacao and the United States.

According to the Chronicle, it appears that these cases have been going on for 15 years, moreover.

One of the questions reportedly asked by the US authorities is why the Curacao authorities are only investigating the perpetrators in the recent gold robbery and not the role of custom officials in the case, which US authorities apparently find questionable in gold smuggling cases between Guyana and Curacao.

The Chronicle goes on to say that US authorities are of the opinion that authorities in Curacao are doing a “selective” investigation. “It seems that there is no leadership coming from the Public Prosecutor’s office and even on some cardinal issues the authorities have failed and it is also reported that they have forged documents.”

One of the aspects that, according to the US, illustrates that the investigation is selective is that there is information about a “dossier” that states that for 15 years there has been gold smuggling in Curacao with gold from Guyana, the Chronicle continues.

“Apparently, it is a known fact that the gold comes to Curacao and then leaves the island with legal documents, heading to the United States. This is the reason why the US authorities are questioning why the local authorities don’t start to investigate the customs for ‘inside’ involvement,” the report concluded.

In a recent incident, United States authorities confiscated gold bars with an estimated value of US$1.7 million sent from Curacao to Puerto Rico.

The suspected contraband, weighing nearly 77 pounds, was discovered in several courier packages at an airport in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, said Jeffrey Quinones, a spokesman for US Customs and Border Protection.

According to Quinones, inspectors noted that the packages that arrived in mid-December were “unusually heavy,” and flagged them for inspection before confiscating the bars as suspected contraband.

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokesman Ivan Ortiz said the source of the gold is under investigation.

The ICE official declined to say whether authorities suspect it came from the November 30 heist in Curacao, in which gunmen masquerading as police stole 70 gold bars, worth an estimated $11.5 million, from a reportedly Guyana-registered vessel that had been used to transport it.

Curacao police spokesman Reginald Huggins said at the time that he was unaware of the confiscation in Puerto Rico. He said authorities in the Dutch Caribbean island had six suspects in custody in relation to the theft there and had recovered some of the gold, but declined to reveal how much.

At the time of the December arrests, Huggins said that one of the suspects is from Bonaire, three are from Venezuela and the remainder from Curacao.

One of the men arrested is the owner of a local jewellery store, while at least two other suspects were said to have been nabbed at the jeweller’s home.

While authorities did not say where the gold was being delivered, one of the ship’s crew members said they were delivering the cargo to an unidentified company in Curacao. Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)