Curacao gold heist suspects released as magistrate requests more info

– local interest cools

The persons held in Curacao over last November’s US$11 million gold heist aboard a Guyana-registered vessel have been released from police custody pending the provision of additional information requested by the magistrate.

The case here, meanwhile, seems to have gone cold as officials have said that there are no updates and interest would be given only when someone comes forward to claim the gold.

“How can we work on something that we too are in the dark about? No one to date has claimed the gold. No one has even come forward to say they have evidence linking its originality to this country, so what you want me to do?”

This was the response given by a senior official of the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment when questioned by Stabroek News.

The official, who requested anonymity, said the ministry was not paying attention to developments in the case against persons charged on the island.

The gold that was stolen was believed to have come from Guyana, but local authorities had stated that they had not been able to verify this.

Moreover, local authorities have not established contact with the Guyanese crew of the MV Summer Bliss who would have been able to give an account of the shipment and its seizure by masked men on November 30, 2012.

A source on the Dutch island had said in May that several of the crewmen continued to live on the island and police could not give information about them because of the sensitivity of the case.

It was believed that they were placed in witness protection because the case could ensnare senior officials there.

Back in December 2012, seven persons ‒ one from Bonaire, three from Venezuela and three from Curacao ‒ were arrested and detained for extended periods by order of the court, pending investigations.

One of them was a Curacao jeweller who had purchased gold and had in his possession bars that were part of the loot.

Speaking with Stabroek News Curacao Prosecutor Norman Sephros explained that on June 28 last the arrested persons went to court. He said the magistrate requested additional information from the prosecutor and they are to return to court on a date in August.

However, he said since the case was before the court he was prohibited from giving details about it.

A source close to the investigation on the island told Stabroek News that the case against the suspects there seems weak.

He said it was believed that evidence would have been taken from the Guyanese crew to be presented during the trial of those charged. However, there has been no word on the whereabouts of the crew and it seems that they have now “vanished into thin air”.

Attorneys for the Curacao locals say that they too are not privy to any details about the crew of the vessel, and that the men are pivotal in not only revealing the origin of the gold but the identity of the thieves who stole the bars.

Police there would not release the names of the crew members, since they said the investigation was a sensitive one and that the crewmen were never suspects and could leave the island whenever they chose.

However the vessel, Summer Bliss, remains docked on the Dutch island incurring daily demurrage fees.

Until that payment was made, the vessel would not be given clearance to leave. To date no one has shown up to claim ownership of the vessel.

There had been earlier speculation that the gold might have been taken to Suriname and mixed with the precious metal from that country and then exported purportedly as having originated from Suriname.

But Suriname officials have on a number of occasions stated that they were not interested in the investigations as no one from that country had claimed the gold was theirs.

A Surinamese police official last week reiterated that as far as they were concerned the case is closed from their end.

He said that gold smuggling was not something his country has an issue with since taxes and royalties were very low.

A crew member who gave his name as Raymond Emmanuel had reportedly told the Associated Press that the crew left Guyana on November 26, bound for Curacao with the gold.

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