Curacao gold heist…Guyanese crewmen scared to return home
Investigators in Curacao are liaising with the US authorities to find out whether 11 gold bars seized by Customs in Puerto Rico were from the much-publicized heist in the Dutch Caribbean Island.
A report in the Curacao Chronicle yesterday also indicated that the Guyanese crew of the Summer Bliss, the Guyana-registered vessel aboard which armed gunmen committed a brazen robbery on November 30th, may be reluctant and scared to return home.
According to Norman Serphos, Public Relations Officer of the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Curacao, the vessel is still docked in the harbour in Willemstad.
“We did not confiscate this boat. If the crew wants to leave, they can do so,” according to the official.
The article suggested that the Guyanese crew may be afraid to return home because of possible repercussions.
Serphos also said that Curacao investigators want to know about the seized gold bars and therefore have contacted the United States Department of Homeland Security.
In mid-December, U.S. authorities in Puerto Rico confiscated 11 gold bars sent by mail from Curacao. Investigators immediately began probing whether the seized gold was from the heist.
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.
On November 30th, gunmen disguised as police stole 70 gold bars, worth an estimated US$11.5M from the fishing vessel that had been used to transport it. A captain and three crewmen, all Guyanese, were on board.
In late December, authorities in Curacao and the US made some major breakthroughs in the investigations, arresting six suspects, including a prominent downtown jeweller.
Some 56 gold bars were recovered before the discovery of the 11 in Puerto Rico.
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 incident at the Curacao port had sparked an international investigation that spanned the US and Guyana. Guyanese authorities said that they had not green-lighted any shipment of gold via the vessel and wanted, too, to know more.
Government has long admitted that not all its gold produced is officially declared for tax purposes, as is the law. There are some beliefs that more than half of the gold is smuggled.