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Belizeans caught in El Salvador imprisoned for money laundering

Four Belizeans who have been charged with money laundering in El Salvador were arraigned this morning in San Luis Talpa, of La Paz in El Salvador. They and three other persons who were detained for the same charges have been sentenced to preventive detention. According to an article on “La Pagina” of El Salvador, authorities there took into consideration that the detainees work for drug trafficking rings by smuggling money derived from drug trafficking, extortion, kidnapping and other illicit activities. They are considered a flight risk and will therefore be facing the judicial process in prison. According to “la Pagina”, one of Jessy Grabiel Ojeda’s relative called the news outlet informing them that Ojeda owns a small store in Belize. The relative vouched that Ojeda is an honest person and that he was going to buy wine with the money he was carrying. Ojeda, and Deymy Vanessa Rodríguez, Marlon Alberto Valle and Lilian Racquel Salazar were all detained last Thursday, along with three other persons, at the Monsenor Óscar Arnulfo Romero International Airport. They were all caught with a little under ten thousand dollars each which they failed to declare when boarding a flight from Belize destined for Bogota, Colombia. Salvadoran authorities suspect they were transporting monies derived from illicit drug operations and delivering it to drug related organizations in Colombia. The other detainees are a Chinese national, Rongcang Chen who is reported to have both a Belizean and Chinese nationality; Guatemalan, Abraham Felipe and Honduran, Claudia Patricia Orellana Bejarano. Reports are that all seven were acting suspiciously after they alighted the plane that arrived from Belize. They told airport authorities that they were headed to Colombia as tourists and that the money was for personal expenses. The total amount of money confiscated from all seven amounted to just over sixty-six thousand US dollars. Salvadoran authorities also confiscated 984 Belize dollars and a small sum of Chinese currency. Authorities suspect that the seven are part of a crime they refer to as “smurfing”. This is the term they use to describe the process used by drug rings in which large sums of monies are divided into smaller amounts that are transported by many individual persons across borders.