Belize’s Deputy Tax Service Director Reynaldo Verde detained for extortion charges
Saturday, September 28th, 2019
Details of the accusations against the Deputy Director of the Belize Tax Services, 47-year-old have been revealed while he remains detained at a prison in Virginia, United States of America (USA). Reynaldo Verde was detained on September 7th by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) at the Washington Dulles International Airport, while on his way back to Belize. He is being accused of alleged interference with commerce using extortion and attempted extortion.
Verde came to the attention of the FBI when a criminal complaint was made by investor Chris Williams, Chief Executive Officer of a real estate company which is behind the project of Orchid Bay Resort in the Corozal District. The allegations, according to an affidavit filed by a special FBI agent, stated that early in 2017, Verde contacted Williams through a third person requesting a meeting to discuss taxes owed by Orchid Bay. At this time, Verde was the Assistant Commissioner for the General Sales Tax Department which is now under the Belize Tax Services umbrella. According to the affidavit, Verde and Williams reportedly met on January 19, 2017, in Belize City. Unknown to Verde, Williams recorded what was discussed in the gathering.
Apparently, there was an ongoing investigation into Orchid Bay’s tax liabilities, and Verde oversaw conducting it. According to the allegations, Verde told Williams that Orchid Bay owed BZ$1 million in taxes. Williams reportedly did not believe that his development owned such a high amount in back taxes. Verde allegedly told Williams that he could reduce that amount by suggesting the creation of a new company and gave Williams the option to pay a negotiable 50% of the debt. According to the report, Williams interpreted the meeting as Verde’s demand for a bribe.
Williams did not accept the offer and reportedly return to the USA where he notified agents of the FBI. According to him, Verde became persistent, and Williams recorded messages in which Verde claimed Orchid Bay’s tax liabilities had gone up to BZ$6 million, and that he would need to make a 25% deposit and then pay the rest within 24 months. To help Williams with the back taxes, Verde was attempting to collect $BZ350, 000 in bribes.
The affidavit states that later in 2017, the FBI looked closer into the case and recorded an eight-minute phone call between Williams and Verde. A meeting was proposed to take place in Mexico, but it did not happen because Verde was expecting Williams to cover his travel expenses. Then in August 2019, a meeting took place at Orchid Bay, and like the first meeting, this was also recorded. Verde allegedly wanted cash and told Williams to find ways and means to get the funds. They reportedly discussed Verde getting property instead, but instead, Verde walked away from the meeting with only one thousand dollars in cash. The affidavit adds that Verde’s attempt at extortion obstructed, delayed and affected commerce within the Southern District of Florida. Williams had acquired the services of a company to do construction at Orchid Bay. The works were canceled due to Verde’s behavior at the time.
At the end of that meeting, the FBI collected the information as evidence. Early in September, when Verde was traveling back from a work trip to Belgium, he was detained while transiting through the USA. The Government of Belize (GOB) has distanced itself from the senior government official. A few days after news of his detention, GOB spoke about Verde’s employment status. In a press release issued on September 12th, it stated that the issue would be put before the Public Services Commission for determination to see if Verde will continue in the service.
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