Up to press time Wednesday, Andy ‘Blacka’ Bennett, 62-year-old farmer of Chateaubelair, was awaiting the return of monies detained by the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) since February last year.

In a judgement handed down at the Serious Offences Court on December 2, this year, Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne said she was not satisfied that there was sufficient evidence to show that the monies were intended for unlawful use, or were the proceeds of unlawful conduct, directly or indirectly.

As a result, she ordered the release and return of the monies to Bennett.

The Magistrate had reserved her decision in the matter following the hearing of an FIU application in August last year, for forfeiture of the cash.

The matter had stemmed from a police search of Bennett’s person in Kingstown around 2:50 p.m. on February 25 last year.

The search turned up 47 grams of marijuana, as well as US$5,620 and EC$2,200 in cash.

Bennett had told the police the money was derived from working in St. Martin and that he was a livestock and agricultural farmer in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. He produced a number of receipts to substantiate what his claim.

Bennett was taken to the Central Police Station, and handed over to Investigators of the FIU.

The money was detained by the FIU and Bennett was charged with possession of 47 grams of marijuana with intent to supply.

The FIU also made an application for forfeiture of the cash which was heard at the Serious Offence Court in August last year.

Bennett produced documents to the Court, claiming that the money was legally obtained through farming, and by work he had done in St. Martin.

But the FIU maintained their belief that the money, directly or indirectly was intended for use in unlawful conduct, or in the circumstances, the proceeds of unlawful conduct.

Among the reasons given was that Bennett was found in possession of 47 grams of marijuana on February 26 last year, along with the money.

When contacted on Tuesday, Bennett’s attorney Grant Connell said “It is now a week since the Court ordered the release of the money, but to date the FIU has not complied with the Court’s order.”

Connell said his client is relying on the cash, as he was recently fined $9,000 for possession of 60 pounds of marijuana with intent to supply.

Connell said Bennett was allowed until December 7 to pay the fine, and he needs the cash to prevent him from going to jail.

Source :The Vincentian

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