Mine Beer case continued in Orange Walk
The Financial Intelligence Unit gets to hold on to $3.1 million, which it confiscated from Caribbean International Brewery, the makers of Mine Beer. As we reported, a raid on October 7 by the authorities at the brewery in Carmelita Village, Orange Walk resulted in the discovery of the money and nine people being charged with immigration offences. CIBL believes that the FIU had no legal basis to confiscate the money because the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Unit led the raid. The company’s attorney, Senior Counsel Dean Barrow sought to have the court return the money because it needed the funds to continue its operations. Instead, Magistrate Deborah Rogers ruled that the money should be kept as evidence for three months. Barrow argued that the Constitution makes clear that the authorities can only hold the funds up to 72 hours with the issuance of continued detention from the courts. Here’s how Barrow explained the rationale behind the argument and why his eyes are fixed on taking the matter to the Supreme Court.
Dean Barrow, SC, Attorney for Caribbean International Brewery: “The magistrate in fact made a number of rulings every one of which we dispute in particular her finding that seizure did not take place until the officers that went to the compound that they had finished counting the money and had thereafter done a chain of custody receipt. I find that outrageous given that we submitted authority to show that seizure takes place as soon as it becomes clear that the people who owned the money are not free to go away with that money, that that money is no longer under their control. So that I repeat we believe is absolutely unsupportable. Again her finding that the FIU which did not seize the money remember the money was seized by the anti-trafficking in persons unit and headed by Gian Young that it is the FIU that can come to court to ask for continued detention of what the FIU did not seize and to ask for continued detention on the basis not of any justification from the police or department that did seize the money but on the basis of justification from FIU officers and Belize Tax Services officer again that is outrageous. As I said look at it in terms of the analogy of a criminal matter, you charge me with theft and when I get to court you lead evidence that I committed rape that’s a violation of my client’s constitutional rights.”
We have also reported that the authorities say that the money was likely the proceeds of money laundering, tax evasion and human trafficking, all very serious charges. Attorney for the FIU, Senior Counsel Godfrey Smith was asked to respond to the point the company has made that these allegations have effectively damaged the company’s reputation and its ability to do business.
Dean Barrow, SC, Attorney for Caribbean International Brewery: “The court had been focusing, as had I originally, on the fact that as we thought we had shown the application for continued seizure was made outside of 72 hours and so that ought to have been the end of that. She finds that no it was not after 72 hours because she said the seizure didn’t take place until in the evening which we dispute. But even if you concede that the application was made within 72 hours the structure of the section of the act under which the application is brought the structure and meaning of the section is clear it is not just that you have to make the application to continue the detention within 72 hours you must get the order for the continued detention within 72 hours. The things says plain you can only hold the cash lawfully for 72 hours so her determining that no as long as you make the order in time I can take as long as is necessary before I give an order for continued detention that violates the section of the act and if the section of the act means what she says it means that section of the act has to be unconstitutional. Every time you search and seize remember that all of us all citizens have a right to protection against certain seizure but a law can provide for derogation from that right that is proportionate. If you provide that somebody can go and seize cash on suspicion indeed you have to provide an end date during which that cash can be held, can continued to held on the basis of mere fair suspicion and that is why they act properly says 72 hours. If you can hold the cash beyond 72 hours without a court having heard evidence and determined that we are giving you further permission then that becomes disproportionate, you’re holding the cash without judicial sanction for too long a time and that is unconstitutional and a violation of my client’s right.”
The company is ultimately seeking to sue the government. According to Smith, the case now proceeds to the Supreme Court.
Attorneys for the FIU were given up to November 4 to submit a written objection to Barrow’s application. The defendant will then have to November 17 to submit a written response to that objection.