BVI News

Gov’t gets more than $300K amid guilty verdict

BVI police in action. File photo

BVI police in action. File photo

More than $300,000 will be added to the BVI Government’s coffers following an order by Senior Magistrate Tamia Richards this month.

She made the order after she convicted Puerto Rican native Felix Melendez-Colon on charges of acquisition, possession, or use of proceeds of criminal conduct.

Police held the 53-year-old offender in British Virgin Islands waters back in September 2015 with $359,950 which is said to be proceeds from the sale of illegal drugs.

Magistrate Richards ordered that the funds be forfeited to the government.

Meanwhile, Melendez-Colon who has spent roughly a year-and-a-half at Her Majesty’s Prison since being arrested, was sentenced to ‘time served’.

That effectively means the senior magistrate considers the time already spent on remand as sufficient punishment for the offence.

She, in the meantime, has another decision to make on whether the vessel on which Melendez-Colon was found should also be forfeited to the government.

While the prosecution led by attorney Herbert Potter requested ‘mandatory forfeiture’ of the vessel, BVI law effectively stipulates that the vessel can only be forfeited if it is found to be directly related to the crime.

Magistrate Richards is to make a decision regarding the 23-foot vessel following legal arguments from the prosecution and Melendez-Colon’s attorneys.

He is being represented by attorneys from Maximea & Company law chambers.

What happened

It was reported that on September 7, 2015 members of the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force were on patrol at sea when they observed a vessel in the vicinity of Towers, West End.

The court heard that law enforcers approached the vessel, and later identified Melendez-Colon as the sole occupant.

Police said the Puerto Rican native told them that he was in the area to fish, but he admitted that he did not have a fishing licence. The vessel had fishing gear aboard, the court heard.

Melendez-Colon also noted that he did not clear with BVI Immigration.

Police searched the vessel and discovered a black bag containing a large quantity of cash.

“Not mine; not mine,” the Spanish-speaking offender reportedly said in denying knowledge of the funds.

He, as well as the money which was wrapped in plastic, was taken into custody.

Following further investigations, Melendez-Colon was charged.

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