Dec 29, 2012 News
Authorities in Curacao and the US have made some major breakthroughs in the investigations into last month’s multi-million-dollar gold bar heist in Curacao.
According to news reports from that Dutch Antillean island, police in recent days arrested six suspects, including a prominent downtown jeweler, Giovani Regales.
Some 56 gold bars have been seized in Curacao, Kaieteur News has since learnt.
Curacao’s police in a statement yesterday said that of the seven persons arrested, one of them is from Bonaire, another Dutch Antillean island; three from Venezuela and the remainder from Curacao. One of the suspects was since released while the others are still being interrogated. During the investigation, the police said that they have confiscated articles that are “very important for the case”.
It is believed that at least two of the gold bars were found at the jeweler’s business place.
Curacao police said that in the preliminary part of the investigations, the Customs also participated actively. “Furthermore because this investigation has some international aspect to it, the Police Corps had communication with the authorities from these countries. The investigation in this case continues.”
The arrests were conducted at several locations in Curacao on Thursday.
Investigators were able to recover 26 gold bars in recent days, Kaieteur News was told by one of the owners of the gold. A small quantity of the 70 bars of gold were from Guyana while the rest came from Suriname, this newspaper understands.
It is believed that gang made contact with one of the US buyers and sent 30 bars via FedEx.
However, the buyer, already notified of the stolen gold, alerted the US Customs and the bars were returned to Curacao where authorities immediately seized it.
It is believed that the stolen gold bars became too hot for the bandits to sell in Curacao and the stash was then taken to the US.
Investigators are reportedly eyeing at least one Customs official in Curacao as being one of the masterminds in the heist which made headlines worldwide.
Kaieteur News learnt that since the heist, at least one local gold dealer was in the United States warning buyers to be on the lookout for the bars which have their own distinguishing features.
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.
Two officials of the regulatory Guyana Geology and Mines Commission were reportedly in Curacao to find out whether the gold came from Guyana.
It is believed that the boat left from Suriname, where the bulk of the precious metal were said to belong to dealers there.
The vessel, the Summer Bliss, was said to be registered to one Deo Shivpaul. The local address on the registration was reportedly given as Canal Number 2, but checks by local officials found that the location is an empty lot.
On November 30, gunmen disguised as police officers raided the fishing vessel which was moored at the port in Willemstad, Curacao, an Antillean island located off Venezuela.
In what appeared to be a well planned heist, the gunmen, using three cars to escape, beat the Guyanese captain and held the three crewmen, also from Guyana, at bay with guns.
They later escaped with 70 gold bars worth US$11.5M (G$2.3B) that had been on the boat.
The boat had left four days before from Guyana, one crewman reportedly told investigators in Curacao.
The Guyana Government had immediately denied knowledge of the gold, saying that it never gave permission for gold to be shipped by any boat.
The Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) also denied that its members may have been involved.
Government had convened an emergency meeting on the issue, warning a zero tolerance on smuggling.
Because Suriname’s royalties and taxes are lower than Guyana, traders have been trekking to the neighbouring country, at great risk of seizures from authorities there and from even robbers.
The Guyana government has long admitted that some of its gold is being smuggled and not declared as the law demands.
There are a number of licensed traders and even fewer authorized exporters of gold.
The incident had worried government who has been moving to control illegal mining and stem smuggling.
Gold this year has seen a record declaration, first passing the 400,000 ounces milestone and then edging pass the 420,000 ounces. It is all thanks to the operations of small and medium scale miners who have been cashing in on high gold prices.
Gold exports from official declaration this year is expected to earn around US$700M, making it the biggest income generator in the country.
Guyana’s rough terrain has made it difficult for the regulator, the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission, to properly monitor miners.
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