Wealthy Italian Antonio Velardo calls Belize “extremely corrupt”

Saturday, June 1st, 2013

On Sunday April 28th, 35-year old Italian Antonio Velardo and 47-year-old Swedish boat captain, Levente Arangos were escorted out of Belize via their vessel La Aventura. This was after the Belize Immigration Department executed a notice forbidding the captain and the lone passenger permission to land after they were temporarily arrested and Velardo was charged for failure to declare funds. The two arrived in Belize and docked at a local marina in San Pedro Town on April 24th. After being in the country for 24 hours, authorities found a total of US$22,000 inside La Aventura which both men had failed to declare upon entry into Belize. A month after he was booted out of Belize for “failure to make a declaration”, (failure to declare money) which he pleaded guilty to, Velardo spoke to The San Pedro Sun and said that there is more to the story than was told.
According to Velardo, who is an investor, the treatment he got in Belize was unnecessary and reflects badly on his reputation. “Some people already knew that I was coming. When I arrived in Belize I was met by about 25 people, some heavily armed that came onboard my boat. It was scary because I didn’t know what they were looking for. I was quite shocked by the treatment,” said the businessman.

According to Velardo, because he had so many forms to fill out, he skipped one section which dealt with funds declaration, but it was unintentional. He said while he agreed that he unintentionally skipped a section on the form, he had enough proof that his money was not illegally gained. He said that while on his vessel, one of the law enforcement officers asked him if he had money in excess of $10,000US. “I replied to her that I had over $20,000 US. She said that on the form I did not declare having more money and because I had already signed the document, I had to be detained. I did sign the form; I had so many forms that at one point I was lost and confused. In addition, I had all these people around and was scared and having so many forms was uncomfortable for me and it was simply an oversight on my part. Now anyone with logical thinking will understand that someone like me has nothing to gain in not declaring that money – it was simply a mistake which I accepted. I travelled with that money because I want to ensure that in the case of emergency, such as a boat failure which would require cash to repair or if I ran out of fuel because of unforeseen circumstances, I want to make sure I have enough cash to pay. I have seen cases where I have attempted to pay by credit card and credit cards are not accepted, and then the next thing you know is that I am stuck in the middle of nowhere without cash. I don’t want to be in a similar position. $22,000US was not a lot of money if you travel by boat. Fuel alone for one route amounts to over $5,000. That money is not a lot of money to have if for a person that travels from one point of the Caribbean to another,” justified Velardo. He said that his intention was only to meet with investors and explore business opportunities while on the island.
Velardo strongly believes that he was being stalked for money. “Someone was trying to set me up to stalk me and ask me for money. Some people in authority knew that I was coming and that I am quite wealthy. They were trying to find a reason to take money from me. It was not like I was coming with $1 million. Anyone with a bit of common sense will tell you that for someone like me, $22,000US is pocket money. You don’t just throw someone in jail and call in all sorts of people. At one point they said I was wanted for Interpol stuff when they know I am a legitimate businessman. I have never been wanted by Interpol that was total bull$%**. It doesn’t look good for a country like Belize. That is not the way to treat someone who has all the intention to invest in a country like Belize. I would have been happy to pay the fine for the mistake I committed rather than to have been frustrated, then worse to be escorted out by police as if I am a criminal,” said a frustrated Velardo.
Velardo said that the only reason he was kicked out from Belize is because some people frustrated him in an attempt to get money from him. “They know that I was going to sue them. Your country [Belize] is extremely corrupt and I am in the process of suing some who put me through unnecessary frustration in exchange for money. Belize has so much potential, it is so beautiful and has so many good qualities, but issues like this, which brings out the level of corruption, can destroy the business potential of Belize and it is sad,” explained Velardo. He declined to say who was trying to stalk him for money but indicated that he is dealing with the issue from a legal standpoint through an attorney retained in Belize.

Velardo was fined $5,000 for not declaring funds but following his release, Immigration officials served his boat captain with a ‘refused leave to land notice (RLL).’ According to the Immigration officials, RLL is an order given to undesirable persons at any point of entry for one of two reasons; 1) for not meeting the right immigration requirement or 2) for doing something contrary to the law of Belize. In Velardo’s case, he was served with the RLL since he failed to declare funds, thus violating the law of Belize.
The wealthy businessman said that not only was he put through stressful moments in Belize but the entire ordeal has caused him embarrassment amongst his business partners back at home. Velardo said that he has every intention to return to Belize to invest but wants to ensure that he is not put through a similar ordeal. He has retained the service of an attorney to ensure that when he returns to Belize, he will have a smoother stay.


Please help support Local Journalism in Belize

For the first time in the history of the island's community newspaper, The San Pedro Sun is appealing to their thousands of readers to help support the paper during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since 1991 we have tirelessly provided vital local and national news. Now, more than ever, our community depends on us for trustworthy reporting, but our hard work comes with a cost. We need your support to keep delivering the news you rely on each and every day. Every reader contribution, however big or small, is so valuable. Please support us by making a contribution.

Click to Donate

Follow The San Pedro Sun News on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook. Stay updated via RSS

Leave a Reply

Comments are closed on this post.