The two men found in BVI waters with $805,370 cash in June 2020 were yesterday found guilty on all charges and ordered by the court to forfeit the monies seized during the operation.
The two offenders — Kemel Wilson, a US Virgin Islands resident and Alberto Valera, a Dominican Republic national who resided in the BVI at the time of his arrest — were convicted of possessions of proceeds of criminal conduct, failing to declare monies to Her Majesty’s Customs and illegal entry. Wilson was also found guilty of failing to comply with an order.
“These monies were recovered on the 16th day of June 2020 when officers from the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force and the Customs Department spotted the defendants while on sea patrol just off the coast of St Thomas,” the A Office of the Director of Public Prosecution said in a recent statement.
Sentencing for the matter is scheduled for May 2022.
Wilson was represented by Reynella Rawlins and Valero was represented by Stephen Daniels. The case was prosecuted by Crown Counsel Kael London.
The court heard that on June 16, 2020, members of the Joint Task Force were in the vicinity of the Tobago islands. While there, they observed a blue and white go-fast vessel with two outboard engines coming from the waters of St John, USVI and heading towards Great Thatch Island.
While observing the vessel, authorities said they noticed it was heading to Jost Van Dyke. However, when the occupants realised they were being pursued, they headed to Smuggler’s Cove on Tortola.
The court heard that the authorities — which comprised of officers from Customs, Immigration and the police force — gave chase with the use of the siren for about seven minutes.
When the officers realised that the vessel was not slowing down despite being ordered to stop, they had to make manoeuvres to force the boat to come to a halt.
During the search of the vessel, there were two black bags at the back of the vessel, and when the Joint Task Force questioned the men on the contents, they remained silent.
A search of the bags was conducted and several transparent vacuum-sealed bags with “large sums of cash” was discovered.
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