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Costa Rican jailed for money laundering

A Costa Rican man caught trying to leave the Island with more than $140,000 in cash has been jailed.

Carlos Jiménez, 27, pleaded guilty this morning to a charge of possessing the proceeds of criminal activity on a date between December 24 and December 28, 2014.

However, his fiancée, 29-year-old Denia Rojas had charges against her dismissed.

The court heard that on December 28, the couple were stopped by United States Customs at LF Wade International Airport after they admitted having more than $100,000 in cash in their bags.

A search of their bags revealed $142,287.03 in vacuum-sealed plastic hidden beneath wet clothing. The majority of the money found was said to be Bermuda bills in large denomination.

The couple were arrested and they were both charged in Magistrates’ Court on December 31 with possessing the proceeds of crime. Neither was required to enter pleas at that time, as the matters were to be sent to the Supreme Court.

However, this morning the Crown asked the court for leave to remove the fiat, allowing the matter to be heard in Magistrates’ Court. The charges were re-read and Jiménez pleaded guilty.

While prosecutor Cindy Clarke called for a sentence of between a year and 18 months, defence lawyer Elizabeth Christopher argued that a sentence closer to the lower end of the spectrum would be appropriate, noting her client’s early guilty plea. She also claimed that while in prison in Bermuda, Jiménez’s family would be unable to visit him.

Jiménez addressed the court in Spanish, with Ms Christopher saying that he had accepted full responsibility for his actions and that during their time on the Island, Ms Rojas had suffered a miscarriage.

Magistrate Khamisi Tokunbo said the offence was a serious one that directly affects the Island’s economic and financial credibility, noting that the amount of money seized was “substantial”.

He said that while Jiménez’s family will not be able to visit him, it is a penalty that he had brought upon himself and must deal with, adding: “He gambled and lost.”

Mr Tokunbo sentenced Jiménez to 18 months in prison, with time already served taken into account, and ordered that the money seized be forfeited.