For some time now, we have been hearing about the effects of derisking and its implications on the Belizean economy. Love News learnt that it is affecting cigarette traders in the Corozal Free Zone. Executive Chairman Gregory Gibson spoke on the matter.
“We have noted some slow down, I’m sure that has to do also with issues in surrounding banking and that has affected the ability of the merchants to access wire transfers and foreign currency as easy as they used to in the past. So that has had some destabilizing effect on it. More recently the bank indicated that they would not be accepting deposits in respect of cigarette importers, that will create some sort of hurdle but the zone has always worked and diversified the type of goods we have and providing the environment that allows trade to grow.”
It is highly presumed that the Corozal Free Zone is used as a gateway by Mexican contrabandistas to smuggle cigarettes out of Mexico to a number of Central American countries.
“The zone started to benefit from the movement of cigarettes in 2010. It reached a peak around 2012 and since then has leveled off. That is not to say that it has come to an end, as a matter of fact in recognizing the phenomenon and the rush to go into business because the profit margins were greater the borders as early as 2014 had put a moratorium on the amount of cigarette licensees or operations contracts were going to be approved to new companies so we closed that off and that has been the case since then. I would subscribe that at that time we had about 60 or 50 importers of cigarettes and I would say that today we have about 15 or 20 at the most. So we anticipated the term of the cigarettes, it’s a business that had come from a fall down between El Salvador and Honduras where the trade was taking place to Belize and so we see one aspect of the cigarette business. In addition to that we are not opposed to the position the bank has taken, there is intelligent speculation that speaks to the fact that cigarettes can and maybe used by underground operatives as a mean to launder money so we understand that and the difficulty in the bank in de-risking themselves from that sort of transaction.”