BVI News

Smuggled $577K was laced with fake cash to buy BVI boat, court hears

Accused visitor Arturo Basantes of Ecuador. (BVI News photo)

The 72-year-old visitor recently held at the TB Lettsome International Airport with more than half-million dollars in real and counterfeit cash claimed to be innocent when made his first appearance in the Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday, July 31.

Ecuador native Arturo Basantes is charged with engagement in smuggling, failing to declare monies to Customs, and possession of proceeds of criminal conduct.

He pleaded not guilty to all three offences.

Basantes, who said he is a pig farmer and shoe store owner, claims the cash was to purchase a vessel in the territory.


According to the Crown, Basantes arrived in the territory on July 25 and was due to depart a day later.

He reportedly was carrying a laptop bag and two blue suitcases with one change of clothing.

Prosecutors said local authorities became suspicious of the seemingly unassuming visitor when he passed through the airport’s security checkpoint.

Images on their computer screen showed what appeared to be a ‘large’ amount of cash among his belongings, and upon further examination, their suspicions were confirmed.

The senior citizen was reportedly carrying $577,830 in predominantly $20 and $10 notes. That sum is more than fifty times the $10,000 legal amount allowed to a single traveller.

It is further alleged that eighteen $20 bills and one $10 bill were fake currency.

Following the allegations, his attorney Stephen Daniels did not make an application for bail for his client. He, however, told the court his client has a heart condition.

Senior Magistrate Tamia Richards subsequently denied bail to the accused Ecuadoran visitor. He is scheduled to return for trial on August 13.

The cash in question remains in police custody.

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  1. Laced? says:

    Out of allllllllll that money a total of 19 bills found to be counterfeit and you call that laced? Strupes.

    Like 83
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  2. Retired says:

    Buy a BVI boat for $577,830US? Wow, must be one really nice large boat for that cash price. It seems odd though that after the hurricanes last year most boat buyers visiting the BVI are shopping for inexpensive damaged boats NOT half million dollar boats. Oh well at least he and his real and fake money are safely in police custody for awhile.

    So I guess this particular half million dollar boat is now back on the market. Maybe the next buyer will be more intelligent and just wire transfer the purchase price from his bank to the seller’s bank!

    Like 16
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  3. *** says:

    So was he coming or leaving with the cash? From the story it seems he is leaving when they found the cash but he is saying it’s to buy a boat in BVI?

    Like 17
    • Byron says:

      He was leaving. It’s clear that this individual did not enter the country with the cash, however, he was leaving with the cash. My guess is he came to collect the cash (proceeds) and leave. Also, why would he travel all the way to the BVI to stay for 24 hours (or less)?? Na…he definitely came to collect that cash and leave.

      Like 9
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  4. Ausar says:

    What did he do that was so wrong?

    OK , he didnt declare his monies. But you seize it all without due process?

    I think he should avail of himself legal services to see what amounts can be returned!

    Like 9
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    • Byron says:

      He can go to court and try to get it back but if he is smart he should consider it a loss. When the court ask him where the money came from, he is not going to tell the truth because 1) He arrived in the BVI WITHOUT the cash; and 2) If he didn’t bring the cash into the BVI, where did you get the cash from? Or who in the BVI gave you the money? He’s in a tight spot!

      • Anonymous says:

        What if he did bring the cash in? And he is just a stupid old man that just didnt declare it, what can he do then? Can he just resign the money and leave cause it seems the island needs the money and wants to keep it, even if it is legal money.

        Like 1
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  5. Uncle Buck says:

    I was unaware arriving passengers must pass through airport security.

    Like 3
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    • Amelia Earhart says:

      Really? Customs never checks your bags when you arrive either by air or ferry? Which port of entry do you use? I’ll bring my cash thru it next time.

      Like 12
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  6. Easy one Daniels says:

    There is a recording at the airport telling people to declare cash over 10K. the recording is only in English. Say he did not understand the recording He did not know he had to declare. Its obvious or else he would have concealed it through clothes and other stuff, but he didn’t even have clothes packed in the bags sound like raw cash.

    How they know the man didn’t work for his money. It isn’t every dollar that people have comes from criminal proceeds. The man didn’t get through with his sale so he went back home with his stash

    Like 7
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    • L says:

      The man lives in The USA. He should have a basic understanding of the English language. Even if I were to go to a Spanish speaking country, I couldn’t use my limited understanding of Spanish as an excuse. Ignorance of the law is no excuse.

      Like 10
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      • M says:

        Yeah and he is also 72, i doubt he speaks english well enough…. funny how everybody is quick to make a judgemnet without knowing the whole story…. i recommend you stay in your island where you understand the language and never ever travel outside of it.

    • Elliot Ness says:

      Very curious as to what would have happened if he did declare a suitcase of over $577k in tens and twenties!

      • Byron says:

        He would have to provide info on the source of the cash or he could have shown them proof that the money was withdrawn from a bank, like a bank receipt.

    • LCS says:

      It’s both in English and Spanish. Very clear. He should have known better!

    • Go easy says:

      Isn’t it international standard to declare cash over &10,000.00? I have been to several airports and it’s only written in English, some places only have the notice on the customs form which I am assuming he signed. I think many times you people are so quick to call down the BVI, whilst some things can be changed the fact remains.

  7. ??? says:

    Once again, another misleading headline. $577,000 – $370 does not equate to laced. Most of us probably handle more fake cash on a yearly basis and don’t even know it.

  8. GYNOB says:

    smh, NDP up to no good again.

    Like 3
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  9. Wow says:

    Maybe its part of Bvi airline money he was carying out for the gouvernement 😉

    Like 7
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  10. really says:

    when last you travel!?, they checking not only your bags but i saw them check a customer pant hem, yes, the hem of the pant, every bag getting check both from US and Caribbean.

  11. Isa says:

    Them is gonna be scatter through that amount of bills..normal usually at least. grand would be counterfeit.He look like me grandpapi lol

  12. dt says:

    AFTER ALL WE’VE BEEN READIN about corrupt cops and courts– whodya say is holding the money? I’d be checking that out each and every day. As posted maybe the same people who are holding the airport 7M will look after this pittenance.

  13. Interesting says:

    Who’s the woman whose hand he’s holding?

  14. old money says:

    This is what it looks like when you save your money over the years. 72 years old.. take notes. Many people do not own farms and yet afford 500k houses.

    it doesn’t seem that the money was strapped about his person, or hidden in any way.

    Like 1
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  15. Rubber Duck says:

    Seems like customs are having a good month. Maybe the empire will expand.

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