The elderly Ecuadorian visitor held with more than half-a-million in cash at the TB Lettsome International Airport last month has lost that money to the territory and will also have to pay a massive $170,000 fine for failing to declare the funds to Customs.
Seventy-two-year-old Arturo Basantes was slapped with the fine on Tuesday during his sentencing hearing in the Magistrate’s Court.
Basantes, who was also convicted of engagement in smuggling, was given an 18-month custodial sentence which was suspended for a period of 18 months.
That effectively means the senior citizen will only spend 18 months in prison if he commits another offence in the next 18 months.
The court also slapped the offender with an eight-month suspended sentence for possession of proceeds of criminal conduct. That sentence was also suspended for 18 months.
Basantes was also charged with having $370 worth of counterfeit cash but that matter was discontinued.
Magistrate Giselle Jackman-Lumy said the sentences were decided while considering that the offender was elderly with poor health, he cooperated with local authorities, and he pleaded guilty at an ‘early stage’.
She said it also appeared that the elderly man acted alone.
Upon hearing the news, Basantes, who will remain in state custody until the fines are paid, told the court: “Thank you [and] God bless you.”
Basantes was caught carrying $577,830 in two suitcases and laptop bag on July 26. Among the cash were 18 counterfeit $20 bills and one fake $10.
He had arrived into the British Virgin Islands the day before.
That sum is more than fifty times the $10,000 legal amount allowed to a single traveller.
Basantes who resides in the US claimed to be a businessman and said the cash was to purchase a vessel in the territory.
While passing through the security checkpoint, authorities became suspicious when images of what appeared to be a ‘large’ quantity of cash in his laptop bag.
They then searched his luggage where a lot more cash in clear vacuum-sealed bags were found.
Defence attorney Stephen Daniels represented the offender.
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