Important Note: This Internet version of 7 News is a verbatum
transcript of our evening television news script. Many interviews on our newscast
are conducted in Creole. In the interest of clarity for our foreign readers,
we attempt to paraphrase the Creole quotes in English
Tonight, $40,000 belonging to Heritage Bank is gone, and police are trying to locate the men who robbed the bank in a brazen daylight heist. It happened this morning at around 9, where the robbers marched into the Bank's Barrack Road office, calmly walked behind the counter and removed two of the cash pans loaded with money.
Police arrived shortly after, and so did our news team. Daniel Ortiz reports:
Daniel Ortiz reporting
This morning, law enforcement streamed in an out of Providence Bank on the corner of Barrack Road and Craig Street. Less than an hour before, there had been a brazen robbery in which 2 men, one of them armed, managed to escape with 2 cash pans from one of the cashiers on duty.
The bank is around the corner from Precinct 3 headquarters and police were quick to respond; they arrived 2 minutes after they got the call.
Insp. Santiago Ciau - OC, CIB, Precinct 3 "This morning about 9:15 am we received information of a robbery in progress at the Provident Bank on Barrack Road. About 9:13am or 9:14am two male persons entered the Provident Bank requesting to see the cashier. The cashier was called out, but before she could have approached this person, the person went right into her cubicle, pulled out the bottom draw, took out a red and a black cash pan and make his way out. In that process she was being chased by the cashier telling him that he cannot take these cash pans with him. The other male person then pulled out a .38 revolver and point it at them and say do not move, this is a robbery. The guys left the building with two cash pans, he point the security guard closer to a counter and gun butted him three time and order him to lie on the floor, then the robber left. The security then made chase and he caught them boarding a van that they use to escape from the scene."
Police currently have a van impounded, it is believed that it was used as the get-away vehicle in this robbery.
That vehicle was located a short while after the robbery. Amateur footage captured by a civilian who was in the area at the time, shows the flurry of activity from the officers who swarmed to respond to the robbery in progress. They made their way to Majestic Alley, in pursuit of one of the suspects.
The robbers managed to get away with approximately 40 thousand dollars.
Insp. Santiago Ciau - OC, CIB, Precinct 3 "In regards to the cash pan, I would look at it roughly about 40K stolen."
Important points of note is that to get inside the bank, one of the security guards had to buzz the men in. The investigator's believed that this was the reason why they asked to speak with a cashier, pretending to have legitimate business. Police are looking closely at the possibility that it could have been an inside job because the men knew exactly where the cash pans were located.
Also, the bank has a number of surveillance cameras, which police have reviewed. They believe that they've identified one of the assailants, and are searching for him. 7News has been informed also that the responding officers found an identification card of a man who's been charged before bank cheque fraud.
The van was found on Santa Barbara Street in the Lake Independence area which is across town from the bank.
So, while police continue to look at the possibility of an inside connection for that bank robbery, they say that they're sure one of the employees at A&R helped plan the robbery of that store. That man is 28 year-old Leroy Ciego, a security guard who works there, and tonight, he's at prison.
Ciego was arraigned today, 5 days after the robbery, on the single charge of conspiracy to commit robbery. He pleaded not guilty to the charge, and due to the nature of the offence, Chief Magistrate Ann Marie Smith remanded him to the Belize Central Prison until October 9, his next court date.
As we reported, at around 6:27 p.m. on last week Thursday, a man with a stockings mask walked into A&R holding a security guard at gunpoint, while his accomplice guarded the door. The gunman then ordered everyone to lie on the ground, which included the other employees and their young children, since the store was already closed.
The robbers stole $12,279 in cash and about $1,230 in valuables stolen from the employees and their children.
Last week we told you about Denvo Banner - the 27 year old Lemonal resident who had gone missing after a victory party for the village team on August 9th. Since then his family has been looking for him all about - but on Saturday their worst fears were confirmed. Monica Bodden has the story:..
Monica Bodden reporting
Denvo Banner's six foot four frame was folded up inside this shallow grave only 3 feet across - where he was buried by his killers in his village of Lemonal - not far from the school building.
A search team of police officers and family members came across the area, just after 2 on Saturday afternoon.
Carla Casimiro - Sister of Denvo Banner "What happened is that we did a search of the entire village way to the last spot by the pine ridge and when we were coming back, the last area we check before we reached the other side of the pine ridge because we have both side of the pine ridge and we found the body buried in a shallow hole before we reach the other side of the village."
"I didn't have any idea that we would find Denvo body in Lemonal. For me I was hoping that maybe he got lost or maybe he went hunting and got lost because he is a hunter man also. We couldn't believe that we would find his body in Lemonal in a shallow grave."
A post mortem revealed that he had been shot multiple times - including above the eye.
Due to the decomposing state of his body, banner was buried later that night.
For his family, even though they are haunted by the mystery of his murder, it is a big relief that they now have closure after he had been missing for 14 days.
Carla Casimiro - Sister of Denvo Banner "It's a big relief for us as the family because Denvo have a lot of brothers and sisters and all we were hoping for was closure for him. It hurts, but at least we have peace within our hearts that we found him and we laid his remains beside my mother's grave."
Monica Bodden "The last people saw of him was at victory party right?"
Carla Casimiro - Sister of Denvo Banner "Yes, a victory party in Lemonal held on the 9th August, because what happened was that the Lemonal cricket team have won the cricket competition and they had a victory party to celebrate and that was the last place everyone saw Denvo. Denvo helped a lot of people, in any way he help. He is not a lazy person. It's hard for us but we give God thanks that we found his body and that we have closure."
He was last seen at a party about half mile down the road in the village community center.
There is speculation that it could be his past coming back to haunt him; Banner had been charged for the murder of Demsley Arnold in 2007, but he was acquitted.
Jules Vasquez "Do you think that it has anything to do with the after effects of what was the repercussion of 6 years later?"
Carla Casimiro - Sister of Denvo Banner "I don't know and I don't want to speculate."
Notably, police found no expended shells at the crime - though Banner was shot at least three times.
Police do have a person of interest - who is a prominent gang figure from Belize City - but who has relatives in Lemonal - and has been known to frequent the area. That suspect was reportedly in the village on the night of the cricket party.
Lemonal has 150 residents; it is the first murder there in many, many years.
Joseph Kee, he's the co-owner of Pier 1 Bar, which sits over the sea at the newly renovated BTL Park, but last night, he was busted with a large amount of cash and contraband liquor.
We've been reliably informed that it happened after 10:00 at the corner of New Road and Douglas Jones Street. Law enforcement reportedly stopped and searched the vehicle and found $11,000 in cash and contraband liquor including Tequila, Jack Daniels, whisky and other types of un-customed liquor.
We're told that everything, including the cash, was confiscated and Kee was detained. We understand that during the bust, city councilor Dion Leslie reportedly showed up. He said that his interest was the money belongs to his father's company, which is part owner of the Pier 1 Bar. Apparently, that cash was from the weekend sales from the Pier 1 Bar.
When we contacted Customs today, we were told that the case couldn't be discussed with the press because it was settled out of court where a fine was brought against Kee. They told us that as part of the settlement with Kee's attorney, the details of the volume of liquor or the quantum of the fine cannot be disclosed. That we note, is unusual, since in the normal course, the details of any contraband bust is usually disclosed. A customs representative did say that they will now be taking a closer look at the Pier 1 Bar which - as we noted, Kee co-owns.
Kee has been featured prominently in the news up to December 2008, when he was freed of the double murders of brothers Phillip and Kevin Brannon. The DPP's Office entered a nolle pros and freed him and another man.
Another Toyota Hilux pickup has been stolen from the Ministry of Health - the third in two years. But, this one is brand new - in fact, it was a part of the fleet unveiled last week to assist with mosquito spraying. It had been assigned to the Western Regional Hospital.
Well, sometime over the weekend it was stolen - but the Western Regional Hospital hasn't released any details - and neither have the police nor the Ministry of Health. We were only able to confirm that it was stolen over the weekend - and is still missing. The report was made to Belmopan police this morning.
The Hilux is one of 11 acquired through a grant from the European Union, at a cost of about sixty eight thousand dollars each. The trucks have been deployed countrywide - with the exception of two that are, quite inexplicably, still parked at the ministry compound. These we understand are designated for the director of the vector control unit and his deputy - but they haven't been handed over because of internal politics in the ministry. But with the rate of Hilux theft from the ministry - they'd be wise to use it before they lose it!
In May of this year, a 2005 Hilux was stolen from the ministry in Belmopan, and then in July a 2008 Hilux was stolen from the Department of Environment. This one is a 2014 Hilux - and while authorities have been stonewalling the media, it occurs to us that if they wanted the public's help in getting it back they would be circulating pictures and asking for assistance.
We often report on police harassment in our newscast and usually the victims giving the stories never get justice. But tonight one mother says she has had enough with officers harassing her sons and she is going to take the issue on legally. According to the woman, her 19 year old son Shakedi Baizar was charged 3 weeks ago for a small amount of weed that was found on him at their 8mile home. He was released on bail and was given community service by the magistrate. A week later, police visited the residence once again for a search. They found nothing, but detained Baziar for a tattoo on his arm that read GAZA - a reference, ostensibly. to the George street gang - bot the Israeli - Palestinian conflict. The 19 year old was charged with the offence of displaying gang membership and was released on bail. But due to the fact that he was under police custody and could not show up to his community service obligations, a bench warrant was sent out for him and Baizar was arrested and sent to the Hattieville prison.
Voice of: Mother of Baizar "The other day about 3 weeks ago the police gang unit went by my house. They found him with a little bit of weed and they took him and they charge him. I don't have any problem with the police doing their job. My problem is that when they go to my house to search they beat up my children and I am tired of that. So they come back the following week and they look for something to charge him with."
Monica Bodden "This is your 19 year old son?"
Voice of: Mother of Baizar "The 19 year old son; they went and they took him because he had a tattoo on him that says "GAZA" on his hand, but this tattoo was way up above his arm and he was getting ready to go to work because he do community service at the magistrate's court and he was getting ready to go to work. At the same time the K-9 came with a lot of dogs in the house and they took him for the markings he had on him and charged him."
Monica Bodden "They charge him for what?"
Voice of: Mother of Baizar "They charge him for displaying a gang sign. I don't see how that will be displayed? You will display a sign in your own house. Now today I was at the court dealing with a situation when my son call me and tell me that the police just finish beating them. He said they ran inside of the house and stomp him off the chair and on the floor and then just come out of the house and gone. I mean, I am getting tired of this now because I think they are overdoing, they are taking advantage of my children and they wait until I turned my back to go in my house. It look like somebody up there is calling them and tell them that when I left home because this morning is as I left home I reach Belize and went out at the court when my son call me tell me that the police just left from my house. They ran in there and beat up my son and stomp him off the chair and went about their business. My son has a back problem from the first time the police had beaten my son. I need this to stop and want the public out there to know what the police are doing to the people out here - at least to my children. I get tired of it, I can't take this anymore and I will take this further - this is not done here because I am not satisfied."
Our records show that Shakedi Baizar was shot multiple times in December 2012.
In September of 2012, the Ministry of Health embarked on an ambitious study to find out what's making Belizeans sick with acute gastroenteritis, what you would call a stomach flu - and to discover how much this sickness costs Belize.
Well, from a total of 3,110 households, the study says that 7.1 percent of those households reported stomach flu's during September to October 2012, which is considered the low season for the illness and April to May 2013, which is considered the high season.
The main cause were was parasites but mostly those stomach flue's were caused by Rotavirus infections.
The highest number of cases came from the Cayo District followed by the Belize District. And how much did it cost in terms of treatment and days of work lost? Well, the study says that the burden of gastro-enteritis on the public health system was estimated at 6.2 Million Belize dollars. This is much higher than the base figure previously reported by the ministry of health.
A release says these results will be used for targeted interventions in food safety.
On Friday we told you about the visit of the Special Envoy of Uruguay, Ambassador Gonzalo Koncke Pizzorno. He was here to pledge his support for Belize's Representative to the OAS, Nestor Mendez in his candidacy for the Assistant Secretary General of the OAS. In turn, Belize will support Uruguay's candidate for Secretary General. On Saturday Ambassador Mendez told us that his candidacy needs a simple majority of the 34 member states of the OAS and he is relaying on Belize's bi-regional identity to get that:..
H.E. Nestor Mendez, Belize Permanent Rep. to the OAS "In the case of Belize we represent both Central America and the Caribbean, so we play a very important balance to the leadership of the OAS if a South American were to get elected as secretary general. When you elect somebody for a senior elected position such as this it counts as much who you put forward and also what country the person puts forward. So being elected into this position could be very good for Belize. It would re-affirm that everybody recognizes that after 33 years of independence we have an important contribution to make."
Jules Vasquez "How is your candidacy going overall in terms of soliciting and securing the support of other member nations?"
H.E. Nestor Mendez, Belize Permanent Rep. to the OAS "The response that we have gotten is extremely encouraging. I can tell you without calling the names of the countries that within the Caribbean - we have an overwhelming majority of Caricom supporting Belize. The Central American region includes Acana in the Dominican Republic when Prime Minister Barrow met with his colleague heads of government there was a clear indication of regional support for the candidature of Belize. So we have Central America, we have the majority of Caricom, in South America we have several votes already as we do in North America, so without getting into specific numbers we are cautiously confident that we are there already."
Ambassador Mendez also discussed the strategic importance of Belize's alliance with Uruguay. As we noted at the top of our story, they also have a candidate for Secretary General which Belize is supporting.
In that matter, it hardly has a choice, since the other candidate for Secretary General is a Guatemalan. That's a delicate matter since the OAS Secretary General is overseeing the Confidence Building Process between Belize and Guatemala - and if a Guatemalan were elected to that post…well, Belizeans would definitely lose confidence in the process. Mendez discussed the balancing act between neighborliness and national self interest:..
H.E. Nestor Mendez, Belize Permanent Rep. to the OAS "There is a reason why we are supporting Uruguay and not our neighbor in this case Guatemala. It is precisely now the organization needs to have balance in the leadership. But as Belize it is not secret where our interest lies; Belize-Guatemala process when it started, it started with OAS involvement with the use of the good offices from the secretary general of the OAS. That should not change except if for instance the Guatemalan were to be elected to be secretary general - that would totally change the scenario."
No date has been set for the election, but it will likely be held sometime next year.
Drainage is a major problem in Belize City generally, more so with climate change, and even more so with those fancy new streets that were built without drainage.
But that drainage should improve: Today the Ministry of Works and Transport along with their partners in the Flood Mitigation Infrastructure Project signed 4 contracts for the concreting and lining of the Douglas Jones Canal, North side Canal as well as Link Road, Apollo Street and the Bill Lindo Canal in Belama Phases 3 and 4. Chief Engineer of the Ministry of Works and Transport, explained the importance of the upgrade:
Courtney Weatherburne "In terms of the infrastructure, do these factor in the climate change mitigation feature?"
Lennox Bradley, Chief Engineer, Min. of Works and Transport "You brought up a very good point because the recent projects that we have started to design - all those IFI funded projects and those that we contemplate under the national infrastructure program will consider the climate change impact. It's a reality that we have to face now - it's here. We all know that a road that is constructed without drainage won't last, so the drainage has to be a complimentary part of the road construction. The actual works that we are contemplating under the flood infrastructure mitigation program which is being jointly by the IDB and the government of Belize does look at climate change impacts and does look at mitigating the flood issue in Belize City. The main objective of the project is trying to mitigate the flood events in there, it's not to stop it because we all know the reality is that Belize is at maybe one foot in some areas above sea level, so flooding will be an issue. But what we hope to achieve with the flood mitigation infrastructure program is to try reduce the duration and the impact from the flooding in the area."
The cost of the 4 contracts is $5,718,455.77. The Flood Mitigation Infrastructure Project is scheduled to end in 2016.
Bradley also updated us on other major projects - including the sugar roads - as the cane season is finished and preparations are being made for another:
Lennox Bradley, Chief Engineer, Min. of Works and Transport "The sugar if I could put it this way it's under the accompanying measures for sugar; it's sort of a grunt agreement that the government of Belize has with the European Union and it's over a time period. They have a set list of road that they will upgrade. The process is ongoing. Several roads have already been completed in both Orange Walk and Corozal Districts. In the past we had some of the roads upgraded to an unpaved standard, but because of the resilience issues that you all brought up we have made a change to the design and we are upgrading all sugar roads under the program to pave standard."
There are also major plans for the Haulover Bridge - which is a CDB funded project:
Lennox Bradley, Chief Engineer, Min. of Works and Transport "The government does have a plan for the highways and we are giving it priority. In terms of the Belize District area, we have three sections of that northern highway that the government is quite advance with the IFIs to upgrade to pave standard and as part of those three sections the Haulover Bridge will be replaced. We will have a new Haulover Bridge there and what we intend to do with the existing Haulover Bridge is to repair that because the structural integrity is still at a level where we could use and we will try to use it elsewhere within the country."
And highways generally will also see improvement:
Lennox Bradley, Chief Engineer, Min. of Works and Transport "The southern highway is fairly in good shape, the Hummingbird highway, action has already been taken by the government to really improve the entire 55 miles. The George Price Highway, we have the section between Belize City and Belmopan that the CDB is upgrading to improve safety and now the IDB will be improving from Belmopan to the border, so I could say that within the next 4 years all our national highway system supposed to be at a very improved standard."
Last week, we showed you the disturbing revelations about the Belize City Youths who were housed at the BDF's Camp Belizario. The Commander of the BDF revealed that the next generation of youths is already being trained as hardened criminals.
During that revelation, Brigadier General David Jones made a public call that some sort of intervention needs to be made urgently or else these youths will continue down the destructive paths. One man who is answering that call is stevedore and labour activist Raymond Rivers. He's planned an outreach program which uses sports and education as a means of positively influencing the City Youths into changing trajectory.
It's called the R3 Youth Movement, and today, he called us out to explain it and why you should support him:
Raymond Rivers "The R-3 youth movement is a youth movement that will take all the umbrellas organizations and we will put it under one umbrella and we will have volunteers who go out to school and we have mentors and everybody in Belize will work together like how the people of Succotz work together. We want to have that same kind of feeling and that same kind of way that we want to do things now when it comes to the youths. Its urgent that how we save the youths from now because the future of Belize looks dims when it comes to violence, like the violence will never stop."
"Tomorrow night at the Memorial Park we will have meeting for all Belizeans - all 6th formers, teachers, principals, policemen, BDF - we want the Chinese community out there. We want the Hindu community out there, we want the Nigerian community - everybody who have businesses in Belize - the Tourism Board, the City Council, coaches who are already in the sports. Thanks to the media house that is out here today, we want plumbers, masons, carpenters to rebuild parks and paint and put water in the parks after when we finish everything."
"It's urgent and Belizeans want the killing more - if they don't come out - we understand that we want the killing happens more, if they come out at this meeting tomorrow that means we know that we want to make a fight against this violence and killing that is happening in Belize."
Rivers says that he and others will be holding a public meeting tomorrow night meeting at the Memorial Park. All are invited, and if you more information, it can be found on the newly created Facebook page, R3 Youth Movement. Additionally, you can reach him at cell number 668-0025.
Justice Courtney Abel says the Ashcroft Alliance's complaint against Samuel Awich as a Judge of the Court of Appeal should not have been dismissed in the manner it was. Also, the Judicial and Legal Services Commission did not conduct due process in that case. That's the conclusion of Justice Abel after hearing a case brought by Dean Boyce, British Caribbean Bank, and Lord Michael Ashcroft, which started in June.
As we told you, In July 2012, the Ashcroft Alliance complained to the Judicial and Legal Services Commission about Awich's conduct. The commission dismissed the case after finding that the complaint about his appointment to the Appeal Court was premature, because he hadn't been elevated yet. In the case of their complaints of his conduct as a Supreme Court Judge, the commission ruled that their request for his removal from the Supreme Court, was too late. The commission, by majority decision, didn't pass the complaint along to the Belize Advisory Council because it was quote, "misconceived".
The alliance continues to contend that quote, "...Justice Awich should never have been appointed as a Justice of Appeal on account of his misbehaviour, and further, in the alternative, for inability to discharge the functions of his office..." End Quote.
Godfrey Smith, attorney for the Alliance, argued in court during the course of several hearings that that Services Commission erred in law when dealing with parts of the statute, which deals with appointment versus removal of a judge. He also contended that Services Commission failed to carry out their duty when they didn't even alert the Belize Advisory Council that the claimants had made a complaint.
Justice Courtney Abel, after considering all the arguments, found that the Services Commission did not discharge its duty fully. Secondly, he found that Services Commission ought to have made considerations about the complaints of his conduct as a Supreme Court Judge, since it could provide foresight into his conduct as a judge of the Court of Appeal. He agreed with the Alliance that at the very least, the Services Commission, should have done a preliminary inquiry before the body dismissed the complaint as baseless and misconceived.
So, what does that mean for the complaint itself which was dismissed by Services Commission? Well, at this point, we're not sure, but the declarations made by Justice Abel are important because it nullifies the dismissal made in 2012 as unlawful and without effect. There were no administrative orders which were made to compel that body to rehear the case.
The 2014 Taiwanese Scholarship recipients were honored on Saturday at Chateau Caribbean. 26 students were chosen to study in Taiwan under the Taiwanese Scholarship Program which requires the recipient to learn Mandarin for 1 year, and the International Cooperation Development Fund Scholarship Experience where the language of instruction is English. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs as well as the Ambassador of Taiwan Benjamin Ho stressed the importance of such an opportunity for the development of Belize.
200 students applied but only 26 were chosen this year. The cost of the scholarship is US$20,000 per school year and the program covers 4 to 5 years of study.