Warwick James Reid, the Australian who was held at the Beef Island Airport with multiple currencies totalling $107,005.24 has changed his previous ‘not guilty’ pleas to ‘guilty’.
He admitted guilt during his court appearance this week and his attorney Patrick Thompson is now hoping to convince the court to release the monies that are still in police custody.
Thompson told the court that his client was able to tap into his online banking history and produce supporting documents for the said cash.
He explained that the documents involved a withdrawal of €96,700 from an Indonesian bank. This was the largest of the seven different currencies found in the accused man’s possession.
“Those documents do exist,” Thompson told the court.
Reid was eying boat in Martinique
Thompson told the court his client was planning to use the monies to purchase a boat in the French-speaking Caribbean island of Martinique.
However, the deal fell through and the accused was in conversation via email with another man in Antigua to purchase some damaged vessels.
Why the vast sums of cash?
In response to questions about why his client chose to carry the large volume of cash, Thompson said the Indonesian bank had difficulties in doing a wire transfer to Antigua.
Another reason was that he was unsure if his bank card would work in Antigua.
Thompson further explained that his client knew he would need cash on hand to pay for labour and other costs associated with repairing the boats.
“It would be easier for him to have that cash. It’s like going to a market and offering people checks instead of cash,” the attorney argued.
Thompson reasoned that confiscating the man’s money, therefore, unwarranted.
“It would be a grave injustice to Mr Reid,” he said.
The attorney then pressed the court to impose a fine significantly less than the maximum penalty for the crimes of ‘untrue declaration’ and ‘failing to declare monies’. The maximum is three times the offender was carrying.
Thompson pointed out that his client is hoping to pay the court-imposed fine from the existing funds if it is not forfeited to the state.
The attorney then argued that special forfeiture hearing should be held if the court is still minded to have the monies forfeited.
The Crown agreed, saying that the hearing would give members of the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force time to investigate the source of the funds.
My client didn’t roam around Tortola
In the meantime, the defence counsel said his client remained within the confines of the T. B Lettsome International Airport during his overnight tenure in the territory on the day of his arrest.
“He slept at the airport,” Thompson said
Thompson then implored the court to show his client mercy as he didn’t take the time to read the Customs Declarations Form before ticking ‘no’ to having more than the permitted US $10,000 on him.
Do not record it
Thompson also argued that his client’s name ought not to be smeared by a conviction as it would hamper his ability to travel in certain respects.
Nonetheless, the Crown said it was Reid’s own “carelessness” that landed him before the court.
Furthermore, the Crown counter-argued that as a “global traveller” he should have known that in every jurisdiction, there are rules that must be adhered to.
In response to the argument for not entering a conviction for the Australian, the Crown disagreed, saying that this would send a wrong message to the world.
Commenting on the arguements Magistrate Ayana Baptiste DaBreo noted that Reid reportedly declared the funds in other jurisdictions before arriving into the BVI.
The court then ruled that there were no “exceptional circumstances” that would allow him not to have a criminal record in the territory.
The matter was adjourned to Thursday for sentencing.
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