In May, when the Canadian socialite Jasmine Hartin shot a police officer dead near the Belize hotel she co-owns, her lenient charge left many dumbfounded. Here was a woman who, during a mysterious moonlit meeting at the end of a dock, blasted a beloved officer in the back of his head with his own pistol and then—at least if early reports are to be believed—attempted to lie about it to police. Despite this, she was charged with manslaughter by negligence and was likely to escape with a fine.
At the time, the overriding feeling was that Hartin had been protected by her in-laws. Hartin’s partner is Andrew Ashcroft, whose father—the British-born billionaire Lord Michael Ashcroft—holds heavy sway over Belizean society. Lord Ashcroft owns, or has owned, Belizean banks, television stations, shipping registries, and telephone companies. Earlier this year, he donated a fully equipped gym to Belize’s police department. Given all this, you wouldn’t have to be a crackpot conspiracy theorist to assume that the Ashcrofts had leveraged some of their heft to get Hartin out of hot water.