(BVI NEWS) – The 72-year-old visitor recently held at the TB Lettsome International Airport with more than half-million dollars in real and counterfeit cash claimed to be innocent when made his first appearance in the Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday, July 31.
Ecuador native Arturo Bansantes is charged with engagement in smuggling, failing to declare monies to Customs, and possession of proceeds of criminal conduct.
He pleaded not guilty to all three offences.
Bansantes, who said he is a pig farmer and shoe store owner, claims the cash was to purchase a vessel in the territory.
According to the Crown, Bansantes arrived in the territory on July 25 and was due to depart a day later.
He reportedly was carrying a laptop bag and two blue suitcases with one change of clothing.
Prosecutors said local authorities became suspicious of the seemingly unassuming visitor when he passed through the airport’s security checkpoint.
Images on their computer screen showed what appeared to be a ‘large’ amount of cash among his belongings, and upon further examination, their suspicions were confirmed.
The senior citizen was reportedly carrying $577,830 in predominantly $20 and $10 notes. That sum is more than fifty times the $10,000 legal amount allowed to a single traveller.
It is further alleged that eighteen $20 bills and one $10 bill were fake currency.
Following the allegations, his attorney Stephen Daniels did not make an application for bail for his client. He, however, told the court his client has a heart condition.
Senior Magistrate Tamia Richards subsequently denied bail to the accused Ecuadoran visitor. He is scheduled to return for trial on August 13.
The cash in question remains in police custody.