The trial for five men accused of laundering gold worth millions of dollars through the Cayman Islands began Tuesday in Grand Court.
“This is dirty gold,” said James Hines, who serves as lead council for the prosecution.
On trial are Daniel Alberto Aguilar Ferriozi, Antonio Di Ventura Herrera, Pedro Jose Benavidez Natera, Juan Carlos Gonzales Infante and Kody Zander. The five-count indictment, which alleges 12 charges, has been reduced to three counts; two counts of money laundering and one count of conspiracy to conceal criminal property.
The first count of money laundering alleges that between 27 May and 31 May of this year, all five defendants played varying roles in laundering 140 pieces of gold ranging in various shapes and sizes. The gold had a combined weight of 240 pounds and an approximate value of $4 million.
Gonzales Infante and Benavidez Natera were the pilots of the private jet used to smuggle the gold into Cayman. Aguilar Ferriozi and Di Ventura Herrera were passengers on the jet and signed the customs form to declare that the gold was theirs. Once they arrived in Cayman, the men were met by Zander who served as a broker for the precious metal.
Although the prosecution alleges the gold was derived from “criminal activity” they can not say what crime was committed.
“This gold was derived directly or indirectly from crime,” said Hines. “The gold itself might be criminal property in that it might have been stolen, or gained from an illegal mine, or it might be payment for a crime.”
The second charge of money laundering alleged that on 16 May Gonzales Infante and Benavidez Natera smuggled $2.4 million worth of gold into Cayman where Zander operated as a broker.
The single count of concealing criminal property names the pilots and passengers of the private jet. It refers to US$135,000 that was found concealed beneath the floor boards of the private jet. That money was said to have not been declared by the men.
One of the key issues at the heart of the trial was the amount of gold declared on the customs form. At its heart, the prosecution lacks any stand-alone evidence, instead it relies on the strength of all the evidence combined.
“Who, how, when, what, the plan was can make it clear that what we are seeing is a crime, circumstantial evidence if you would like,” said Hines.
The trial successfully got underway on Tuesday afternoon after facing several delays. A jury was empaneled on 11 Nov. but the matter was delayed due to legal reasons. The opening date was moved to 25 Nov., however, on that Monday it was once again delayed again due to additional legal reasons. Cayman Compass is not allowed to report on those legal reasons.
On Tuesday morning, the jury was discharged after the number of members was reduced to 11 due to sickness and personal commitments. Due to the magnitude of the trial, it was decided that no less than 12 jurors should hear the matter. However, later that afternoon, a new jury was empanelled and the trial officially opened.
The men on trial have all deny any all the allegations. Benavidez Natera and Gonazles Infante were remanded into custody, while the rest of the defendants were released on bail.