The two men accused of being engaged in smuggling after piloting a private plane carrying gold and cash to Grand Cayman were back in court on Thursday for a case management hearing.
Juan Carlos Gonzales Infante and Pedro Jose Benavides Natera, both Venezuelan nationals, made their second court appearance in Summary Court and listened as their attorney summarised the evidence.
Defence counsel Prathna Bodden told the court that the US$135,000 in cash found on the defendants’ plane was tested and came back negative in relation to fingerprints for her clients. The crown is seeking a DNA swab from the defendants for further testing, and Bodden said she did not oppose that.
“Why that didn’t happen sooner, I don’t know,” she said.
Bodden said the defence will not dispute that her clients were the pilot and co-pilot of the plane, nor will she dispute that the money was found on the plane. The court heard on a previous occasion that the defendants had no knowledge of the money on board the plane, and Bodden said that the plane’s passengers had properly declared the gold that entered and exited Grand Cayman.
The Crown is also seeking telephone data in addition to DNA evidence. The matter will come back to court on 10 July when the parties will discuss whether the case will move forward with its expected 17 July trial date.
Bodden said she received an email from the Crown counsel Wednesday night that indicated there are 19 witnesses and nine exhibits for the court. The DNA and telephone evidence could change that assessment, but as of now, the two sides are moving forward for a speedy resolution.
“The issues are very straightforward,” said Bodden. “It’s not a complicated case.”
Magistrate Valdis Foldats told the defendants on their first appearance before the court that the Crown has a strong case, and he assured them that things will move expediently on Thursday.
“I trust that both defendants are aware that matters are proceeding as quickly as possible,” he said before the defendants were returned to custody. “At this stage, the trial date remains the 17th of July.”