Contrabandista fined in court

A businessman from August Pine Ridge in the Orange Walk District must pay over $13,000 in fines by next December to avoid jail time on charges of possession of uncustomed goods. Sergio Chi pleaded guilty in Belize City before Magistrate Deborah Rogers to possession of goods worth $4,450 found inside his van on July 27, 2015, consisting of 21 sacks of onion, 10 cases of tomatoes, 2 sacks of sweet pepper, 10 cases of corn flour and 4 sacks of cabbage. These did not go through procedure with the Customs and Excise Department. It took the Customs Department some months to catch up with Chi, who had agreed to settle the matter out of court but failed to follow up and disappeared from the Department’s radar. Last week the Department finally caught up with him and Chi immediately pleaded guilty. Prosecutor for the Department, Evan Cassanova, informed the court that Chi’s vehicle in which the goods were found was also confiscated and was still in Customs’ care. Per the law on uncustomed goods, the Department was entitled to claim and sought three times the value which is $13, 245. Magistrate Rogers ordered him to pay this fine within a year, by December 2016 in default, 6 months’ imprisonment. She informed him that if he is unable to pay the fine in full by then, he can come and ask the court for an extension which will only be granted to him if the court sees that he has been making significant payments to his fine.   In mitigation, Chi asked the court for leniency since he recently got a job a week ago and claims he has a child to maintain but can pay his fine if given time, he said.

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