Gold bars seized in Puerto Rico
– Investigators probe possible Curacao heist link
U.S. authorities in Puerto Rico have confiscated 11 gold bars sent by mail from Curacao, officials said Tuesday. Investigators are now probing whether the seized gold is from a recent heist on the Dutch Caribbean Island.
The gold bars were found in several courier packages at an airport in the Puerto Rican town of Aguadilla, said Jeffrey Quinones, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The bars weighed nearly 77 pounds and have an estimated value of US$1.7 million, said a report in the Miami Herald.
Inspectors noted that the packages that arrived in mid-December were “unusually heavy,” and flagged them for inspection before confiscating the bars as suspected contraband, Quinones said in a statement.
According to a local source, the gold is part of the stolen shipment in Curacao. The source said that investigators are now learning that some of the gold had been shipped to Puerto Rico earlier. The success of this shipment led to the shipping by FedEx of the larger shipment that was intercepted in the United States. That and the success of the first Puerto Rico shipment must have prompted this most recent shipment to Puerto Rice, the source said.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Ivan Ortiz said the source of the gold is under investigation. He declined to say whether officials suspect it came from the Nov. 30 heist in Curacao, in which gunmen disguised as police stole 70 gold bars, worth an estimated $11.5 million from a fishing boat that had been used to transport it.
Curacao police spokesman Reginald Huggins said authorities there have six suspects in custody in the theft and have recovered some of the gold, though he declined to say how much. He said he was unaware of the seizure in Puerto Rico.
In late December, authorities in Curacao and the US have made some major breakthroughs in the investigations, arresting six suspects, including a prominent downtown jeweller, Giovani Regales.
56 gold bars have since been seized. Curacao police had indicated that of seven persons arrested, one of them is from Bonaire, another Dutch Antillean island; three from Venezuela and the remainder from Curacao. It is believed that at least two of the gold bars were found at the jeweler’s business place.
It has been reported that the gang made contact with a US buyer and sent 30 bars via FedEx.
However, the buyer, already notified of the stolen gold, alerted the US Customs and the bars were confiscated.
The November 30 heist by bandits dressed in police clothes on a Guyana-registered boat at a Curacao port, sparked an international investigation that spanned the US and Guyana.
It is believed that the boat left from Suriname.
The vessel was said to be registered to a Guyanese. The local address on the registration was reportedly false.