Venezuelans and Cayman national acquitted on gold smuggling charges

Gold found at Heathrow Airport

GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands (CNS) –  A jury reached not guilty verdicts last week on all 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. 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.

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 the 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.

Republished with permission of Cayman News Service



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