A Trinidadian couple found guilty of attempting to smuggle US$67,538 out of the British Virgin Islands (BVI), has been imprisoned and fined.
Online news articles said that in passing sentence on Wednesday on Allan Birju and Rachelle Emrith, a BVI senior magistrate said that financial crimes will not be treated lightly, adding that such offences can damage a country’s reputation.
The BVI, which is one of the world’s leading financial services centres, gets more than half of its annual revenue from the financial services industry.
Senior Magistrate Tamia Richards said: “Possession of criminal proceeds encourages criminality and, even though we are mothers and fathers, the court has an obligation [to punish offenders]”.
Birju was sentenced to one year at Her Majesty’s Prison for engagement in smuggling, and six months imprisonment for possession of the proceeds of criminal conduct.
Both sentences are to run concurrently, effectively meaning that he will spend only a year behind bars.
Birju’s co-accusedEmrith, was identified as the mastermind in the financial crime and was imposed a harsher sentence.
She was sentenced to 14 months in prison for engagement in smuggling and 12 months for being in possession of the proceeds of criminal conduct.
The sentences are to run concurrently and she will therefore serve 14 months for the both offences.
On the third offence of failing to declare monies to Her Majesty’s Customs, Emrith was fined $60,000.
If she does not pay that sum, she will serve an additional six months in prison.
Senior Magistrate Richards also ordered that the US$67,538 that the Trinidad natives tried to smuggle through the Terrence B Lettsome International Airport should be forfeited to the BVI Government.
The prosecution told the court that the money was earned through criminal conduct, but did not specify about such in court.
The court heard however that on July 4, police received a report that Birju and Emrith were attempting to leave the BVI with large quantities of United States currency.
The authorities searched Emrith and found $58,050 strapped to her waist, sides, and back.
When confronted she allegedly told police: “Officer, I have a young child to feed. I did not know I had to declare the monies. Things are hard in Trinidad… Please give me break.”
The court also heard that when Birju was searched, authorities recovered $9,488 from trousers he was wearing. He claimed that he accompanied Emrith to the BVI, adding that most of the cash belonged to her.