Ahead of his sentencing hearing later this month, Chelsea Mutyaba of Uganda in East Africa made a passionate appeal to the court for mercy and came close to tears at the idea of a possible custodial sentence.
Mutyaba is charged for engagement in smuggling and failing to declare $23,241 while travelling through the TB Lettsome International Airport last Thursday.
He pleaded guilty to both offences, and told the court that if the court sees it fit to confiscate the cash, “let it be”.
“I am an honest man. I am not a criminal,” he said to the court during his first appearance.
“I did it because I was ignorant of the BVI laws,” he told the court on Wednesday while mitigating on his own behalf.
He said in the past when he travelled to other destinations such as Peru, Fiji and even in his home country, and declared cash, certain corrupt Customs officials would alert thugs of the money he had.
These thugs would then attempt to rob him of his funds, he told the court.
“Have mercy on me. I will never be in this position. I am just asking for mercy. I am not a criminal, I just made a silly mistake. The money belongs to me,” he said.
He also provided the court with a document from a Ugandan bank showing the withdrawal of the cash.
Fearful of prison
Meanwhile, Mutyaba said he had never been in prison before and was fearful of the prospect.
“I wouldn’t be strong to last in prison, I am scared of prison, I am scared. I have been tested for cancer,” he said, adding that he is a father of four.
His matter was then adjourned to March 19 for sentencing.
The court heard that last Thursday, the accused man was attempting to leave the Beef Island-based airport after spending a few days in the British Virgin Islands.
The accused man reportedly told police that he arrived in the territory with the intention to establish a business and rent a house. However, he said that venture turned out to be too expensive.
While he was being screened at the airport, $13,001 was found concealed in the left side of an Adidas sneaker. The cash was bound by a rubber band in predominantly $20 bills.
Another sum of cash was found in the pocket of a pair of jogger’s pants in his suitcase, also bound with rubber bands and totalled $10,240.
The accused was transported to the Road Town Police Station, and the cash was counted and photographed. He was later charged.
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