On New Year’s Eve, 2015, police escorted two men to the Belize City Magistrate’s Court where they were jointly charged with supplying a controlled drug, to wit, methamphetamine or heroin to Ervin Teck contrary to the Misuse of Drugs Act; and possession of 24 and a half pounds of diamorphine or heroin with intent to supply same, which occurred on Tuesday, December 29, 2015. Today, however, 40 year old Richard McDonald and 26 year old Giovanni Requena were released after the National Forensic Science Service was unable to prove that the substance police found was in fact heroin. According to attorney Herbert Panton, who successfully applied to Senior Magistrate Sharon Frazer today to dismiss the charges, the case fell apart late last year when the tests were finally conducted on the substance:
Herbert Panton, Attorney for Richard McDonald: The undercover police officer tested—you know there are these portable testing things—tested the substance and instead of the substance turning green, which would have indicated heroin, it turned brown. So that from December of last year, the police knew that what they had in their possession as twelve kilos of brown sand and they knew that from December of last year. But they dragged this matter on, my client has lost tremendous business as a tour operator; nobody in the industry wants to deal with him. In any event, we proceeded, disclosure was ordered three months ago and the trial was set for today’s date. Today, the police still could not produce a certificate from the Forensic Services indicating that what was inside those twelve packages was in fact heroin and given that reality, the magistrate upheld our application and the matter was thrown out
Panton says he will sit down with his client to discuss potential claims for damages, but says there is no getting away from the fact that a man’s reputation and business has been ruined, in effect, for nothing. The exonerated McDonald, who works as a tour operator, expressed to us what the charges did to his character and his business:
Richard McDonald, Exonerated of Drug Charge: Well there is no sum as to my character and the business that I provided was something more than professionalism. It was something like VIP all the way so we had key resorts that we did business with. Unfortunately when this happened, the resorts have a name that they have to keep as well so there is no hard feelings towards them, because it is not their fault; it is the fault of the Police Department. So like my lawyers said, we are going to sit down and figure out just exactly how much we’ve lost and how much the government will have to face. But today I am really happy because just like how the media could have put me as a bad guy, today they see that I am not the bad guy that police wanted me to be. So now I am happy and I’m vindicated
At the time of his arrest, McDonald was a tour operator but steadily lost business due to his alleged criminal association. He says he will now have to work on getting back to where he was, and avoid further police interaction. McDonald also noted that he was held up to the very last half-hour before charges were brought and the items were not found on him personally or in his vehicle or property. He told us that on the last meeting with the Tourism Board, he threatened to get the law involved and that was how he managed to get back his license to operate.