Monday, June 10, 2013

Plot thickens in Curaco gold hiest

The Guyana-registered vessel from which over US$11 million of gold was spectacularly carted off by thieves last November in CuraƧao, remains docked on the island and the crew is now in witness protection because of their testimony in a case that may ensnare senior officials.

The gold that was stolen is believed to have come from Guyana, but local authorities say they have not been able to verify this.

Brazen gold heist in Curacao
On November 30, 2012 masked gunmen, disguised as policemen, raided a fishing boat in Curacao and escaped with over US$11.5M in gold.

The boat, by its appearance, would seem an unlikely place to stash the 70 gold bars which weighed approximately 216 kg. (476 pounds). Curacao is an island in the southern Caribbean Sea, off the Venezuelan coast. Many believe the gold was smuggled from Guyana.

Guyana produces around 650,000 ounces of gold a year, and officials say that up to half that amount is smuggled out of the country to avoid paying taxes. Most is sold in neighboring Brazil,Venezuela and Suriname.

Curacao police initially arrested seven suspects. Police spokesman Reginald Huggins said that one of the suspects is from Bonaire, three are from Venezuela and the remainder from Curacao. One of the men was later released while the others were held in custody.
On January 12, US authorities confiscated 11 gold bars with an estimated value of US$1.7 million which were sent by mail 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.
Today a spokesman for the Curacao prosecutor's office said a prominant 51-year-old businessman from Curacao had also been arrested. His name was not released. Spokesman Norman Serphos says police searched two homes Tuesday and seized evidence in the case.

There are now seven people detained as suspects. A judge last week ruled there was enough evidence to continue holding those caught earlier for at least 60 days more as the investigation continues.