By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
A 25-year-old commercial pilot was fined $1,000 for failing to declare that he had just over $10,000 in cash when he flew into the country from Haiti two months ago. The sum was declared to be the proceeds of criminal conduct.
Stephen Hanna was fined for failing to inform customs officials that he brought in only $19 more than the maximum $10,000 allowed in cash when he touched down in Exuma on February 1. Hanna, previously wanted by the police, also lost the $10,019 he acquired sometime between January 31 and February 1, which he admitted represented the proceeds of criminal conduct.
Failure to pay his fines would result in a three month custodial sentence.
Prior to being fined, Hanna had pleaded guilty to one count each of failing to declare to a Bahamas customs officer; acquisition of the proceeds of criminal conduct and possession of the proceeds of criminal conduct.
The latter count was disregarded, however, as Acting Deputy Chief Magistrate Subusola Swain found it to be duplicitous with regards to the acquisition charge.
According to a summary of the facts read by the police prosecutor, Assistant Superintendent Clifford Daxon, on February 1 about 3.50pm, two officers stationed in Bimini went to the Bimini International Airport, where they observed a certain plane.
They approached the pilot and informed him of their suspicions that he was in violation of the Dangerous Drugs Act. The officers searched the plane and found nothing related to dangerous drugs. However, they discovered some $10,019 on the pilot.
Further inquiries revealed that Hanna came into The Bahamas from Haiti via Exuma. At that time, Hanna had failed to declare to the customs officer that he was bringing more than $10,000 into the country, which he was required by law to do.
Hanna and arrested, and later questioned on the funds that were found in his possession. In response, he said he got the monies from someone while in Haiti for a flight, as he was bringing someone into The Bahamas. Hanna was subsequently released.
However, on April 3, he was taken back into custody and further interrogated about the funds, but could not provide a satisfactory explanation, and neither could he provide any receipts to clarify how he obtained the money.
After the facts were read off, Acting Deputy Chief Magistrate Swain noted than as a commercial pilot, he should be well versed with the relevant law, and questioned why he did not make the declaration.
Hanna responded by saying he was not aware he was $19 over the limit when he was initially arrested, as he hadn’t done any paperwork or written up any receipts up to that point.
However, the senior magistrate said he was “careless and/or reckless” for not doing so.
She subsequently fined him $500 apiece on counts one and two, before dropping the third count. The $10,019 was ordered confiscated and forfeited to the Crown.
A conviction was recorded, something Hanna said would probably have a negative impact on him keeping and/or renewing his pilot’s licence.