Wilfredo Cancio Isla (Café Fuerte)
HAVANA TIMES — While being arrested during an armed police raid and the meticulous search of his mansion in the neighborhood of Guanabacoa, Cuban reggaeton musician Gilberto Martinez Suarez told officers he had only 60 thousand dollars to live on in Cuba.
“The money’s there, 60 thousand and some Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC). It’s the only money I have to live on, believe me,” Martinez told an officer conducting a search of his home.
Cuffed, afraid and insisting that all of his furniture, household appliances and other objects around the house were obtained legally, Martinez is seen in a video recording of an operation conducted by the Special Tactics Force of Cuba’s National Revolutionary Police (PNR), published on YouTube this past Monday.
The author of the leaked video has not been identified. In the recording, we see police agents filming details of the arrest and interrogating the detainee.
Though clips recorded outside Martinez’ home during the operation (conducted in early January) had already been divulged, these are the first videos showing the musician’s arrest, his interaction with Ministry of the Interior officials assigned to the case and the interior of the mansion, located on 23 Carretera Santa Maria (kilometer 6 ½), Guanabacoa.
The case of Martinez (stage name Gilbert Man) made headlines and news in Miami at the beginning of the year, after the police crackdown in his mansion was made known. The detainee is a fugitive from US justice who had left a wife and little girl behind in the United States and fled to Cuba to evade charges of credit card fraud for some US $150,000 in stores such as Toys-R-Us and Babies-R-Us.
In recent months, Martinez enjoyed wide exposure on Facebook and through music videos that extolled his success in the music world and his ostentatious lifestyle.
The 32-minute video documents the search of Martinez’ cars and the arrest of individuals employed at his home, as well the interrogation of the detainee in each of the rooms searched by the PNR, in the presence of witnesses.
“Can’t you tell me what I’m being charged of, who you are?” Martinez asks.
“We’re going to complete this operation first. Then we will proceed to explain to you the reasons why this operation was carried out,” an official explains to him.
“It All Came Through the Airport”
During his interrogation, Martinez insists that all of the furniture and appliances in the house “came through the airport” and were inspected by Customs. Some items (such as car-lights), he says, were bought on E-bay, because they are cheaper there, and sent to him from Miami.
Martinez also mentions Cuba’s company PALCO, a corporation founded in 2009 and offering tourism, real estate and logistical import services.
The young musician claims that the furniture he was authorized to bring from Miami when he moved back to Cuba (at the close of 2013, apparently) was brought to the island by PALCO. A Cuban ID was issued to him on March 14, 2014.
Near the end of the video, we see a woman who identifies herself as the chair of the block’s Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) and tells Martinez to go with the authorities in peace, as the neighbors will keep watch over his home.
“If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. Don’t worry. Everyone on the block is going to look after your house. We revolutionaries do no harm,” the chair of the CDR says emphatically.
Though there are some versions claiming his arrest took place on January 5, Miami correspondent for Reuters David Adams states that the operation began on Wednesday, January 7 and lasted until Saturday, January 10.
“When I arrived at the place on Saturday, the house was still surrounded by dozens of police officers. Some were plain-clothes detectives,” Adams told CafeFuerte. “I tried to obtain information from the police, but they told me they couldn’t make any statements.”
Adams, who was in Havana at the time of the incident, found out about the operation through his private driver.
“I was able to speak with people from the neighborhood, but next to no one knew what was going on,” said Adams. “The house covers an entire city block and is simply spectacular.”
All of Martinez’ cars (a total of 14 vehicles), including an Audi and Mercedes Benz, were confiscated during the operation.
Felonies in Cuba
The 28-year-old Martinez is now under arrest, though no official news about the case has been divulged and the charges against him in Cuba have not yet been confirmed. Unofficial accounts mention charges of corrupting minors, gun possession, prostitution, possession of drugs and illicit wealth.
Martinez had left Cuba in 2005 and settled in South Florida. The charges for his alleged crimes were presented before Martin and Miami-Dade County courts. He was detained in July of 2013 and released under bail, at which time he fled the country and returned to Cuba.
He has been a wanted criminal in Florida since January of 2014.
Legal proceedings for credit card fraud began on September 30 of last year. Martinez could be convicted to 16 years in prison for these charges.
His girlfriend, Yuleidys Gonzalez Almaral, and little girl (Nelsie) live in Miami.
The Father-in-Law Who Comes and Goes
Yuleidys has been detained since October. On January 15, she appeared before a hearing to plead guilty and offer her cooperation to federal authorities, but Judge Federico Moreno denied her bail.
In the video, Martinez mentions that his father-in-law, presumably Yuleidys’ father, lives with him in his Guanabacoa home.
“He comes and goes [to Miami]. He lives with my wife and kids there,” Martinez tells the police.
Though the announced re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States opens the possibility for the US to demand the extradition of fugitives from justice, it seems unlikely Martinez will be handed over to US authorities.
The cases of the dozens of fugitives from US justice living in Cuba after committing acts of million-dollar Medicare and car insurance fraud have been brought to the discussion table and constitute issues to be addressed during bilateral negotiations, but no short-term solution is yet in sight. Some charged with Medicare fraud have voluntarily returned to the United States to settle their debts with justice.
Martinez is being actively sought by US authorities. The US Marshals Service is updating its list of the possible destinations of fugitives and has sufficient proof of his whereabouts.
Video of Gilberto Martinez’ arrest and police raid.