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#472947 - 09/20/13 11:26 AM Minister of State Hon. Elvin Penner resigns
Marty Offline

The Office of the Prime Minister announces that, with immediate effect, the Hon. Elvin Penner is no longer a Minister of State in the current Administration. The Prime Minister formed the view that, with respect to a situation brought to his attention on Tuesday, Hon. Penner, as Minister of State in the Immigration Ministry, did not discharge his responsibilities with either the due judgment and balance, or the scrupulous regard for appearances, which the Prime Minister demands of all his Ministers. As a consequence the Prime Minister late yesterday evening met with Hon. Penner and required him to resign. After discussion Hon. Penner agreed with the position of the Prime Minister. He therefore tendered and had accepted his immediate resignation.

In a related development, the Office of the Prime Minister also announces that the Immigration Ministry, together with the Ministry of the Public Service, has launched an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the issue of a Belize passport to a South Korean national. The Immigration Ministry will make a statement in the next day or so as to the results of that investigation.


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#472956 - 09/20/13 11:47 AM Re: Minister of State Hon. Elvin Penner resigns [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

PM Forced Hon. Penner to Resign Due to Passport Irregularity

This morning rumours started zipping around that there was a major shake-up in the UDP Cabinet - and by 10:30 the news came down like an executive Sledgehammer: Minister of State in the Ministry of Immigration Elvin Penner had been forced to resign by the Prime Minister. What's behind it? Well 7News has received credible information which says that Penner signed off on, or facilitated the issuance of a passport for a South Korean who is in jail. Best information is that the South Korean was being held, but when he produced a passport, which was backdated - the South Korean got bail and skipped the country. These are the sketchy details presently available, and those details say further that another elected official in the UDP facilitated the operation. That official we are told was also named in a previous investigation into 8 stolen visas. That's what we know tonight, but here's what the PM's statement said today - we'll read it verbatim:

"The Office of the Prime Minister announces that, with immediate effect, the Hon. Elvin Penner is no longer a Minister of State in the current Administration. The Prime Minister formed the view that, with respect to a situation brought to his attention on Tuesday, Hon. Penner, as Minister of State in the Immigration Ministry, did not discharge his responsibilities with either the due judgment and balance, or the scrupulous regard for appearances, which the Prime Minister demands of all his Ministers. As a consequence the Prime Minister late yesterday evening met with Hon. Penner and required him to resign. After discussion Hon. Penner agreed with the position of the Prime Minister. He therefore tendered and….his immediate resignation (was accepted)."

"In a related development, the Office of the Prime Minister also announces that the Immigration Ministry, together with the Ministry of the Public Service, has launched an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the issue of a Belize passport to a South Korean national. The Immigration Ministry will make a statement in the next day or so as to the results of that investigation." Today Prime Minister Barrow declined an interview, saying only by text, quote, "I dealt immediately with the minister as per my responsibility. The Immigration Ministry investigation clearly involves Public Officers, and has its own procedure. I will say nothing more at this stage so as not to prejudice that ongoing process." End quote.

As we understand it there is an intensive internal investigation underway at the Immigration Department - which, our sources say, is focusing on the passport section. But no attention is being paid to the Nationality section where no file can be found for this South Korean and neither can any nationality certificate can be found. Yet the passport section received his application. And while that continues to unravel, the timeline suggests the Prime Minister acted quickly - learning on Wednesday and meeting with Penner yesterday afternoon at 4:00 at his Belize City office where the second term minister of state was forced to resign from Cabinet.

Penner also declined comment today. We also reached him by text message and he told us, quote, "I have been elected by the people to serve them under the UDP and I will continue to serve my area to the best of my ability."

And, politically, that's where the focus now lies. While the scandal of a backdated passport reportedly issued to a detained person will unfold under its own momentum, the political aspect bears some very close watching.

Penner remains as the standard bearer for Cayo Northeast - he has not resigned that post. But, it's a seat that he won by only 17 votes in the 2012 election, the closest of any contest. And now that he will be a sort of lame duck representative, there is a thing called the recall mechanism - where 30% of the registered voters in the constituency, in this case, about 1,600 voters can sign a petition triggering a bye-election. There's no indication from the PUP that this will happen - and the leader of the opposition didn't return our calls - but, looking at the objective circumstances, the timing certainly favours it. We say that because the recall can only be triggered after the representative completes 18 months in office - and Penner is now in his 19th month.

But, right now, that is pure speculation; for Penner the immediate task is to use the Edmund Castro model. In the last term of the Barrow Administration, he too was stripped based on conduct un-becoming, yet he managed to be re-elected by a comfortable margin in the next election. But we note that his margin of victory in the prior election was not 17 votes, as it is for Penner.

Interesting times, and there will be more revelations ahead in the days to come, which we'll follow with seismic precision.

Channel 7


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#473053 - 09/21/13 11:10 AM Re: Minister of State Hon. Elvin Penner resigns [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Penner’s Passport Scandal Unravels Further

Tonight, the scandal involving Cayo Northeast Representative Elvin Penner deepens as more information is surfacing about the Belizean passport that was fraudulently issued to a South Korean National.

7news has learned that the South Korean man is in jail in Taiwan and is pending extradition to another Asian country. He's reportedly very wealthy but has been in a Taiwan jail since August. Yet, quite suddenly, he now possesses a Belizean passport dated September 9th, 2013, which he could not have applied for - because he was in jail! Apparently, it was thought that the Belziean passport could have saved him from extradition.

The problem for former Minister of State in the Ministry of Immigration Penner is that he signed the South Korean's passport picture and application - which is required by law under the new passport regulations. The justice of the Peace counter-signing it is - we are told - a former UDP elected representative at the municipal level who is close to Penner.

But not only did they sign an application and picture for man who was in jail in another country - best information suggests this man has never even been to Belize - so he could never have qualified for a passport.

That's the best information we have - and that's what leads to the statement in the Prime Minister's release that Penner, quote, "did not discharge his responsibilities with either the due judgment and balance, or the scrupulous regard for appearances…." That's why the Prime Minister forced him to resign - and in so doing, likely conceded the Cayo Northeast seat which was, at best, marginal for the UDP - after Penner won by only 17 votes in the 2012 general election.

But - there are much more serious issues at stake tonight, because as we said in the headline, it's become an international incident. That's because it appears the passport was conveyed to the South Korean by a diplomat from another country - and the deal was reportedly set up by another UDP elected official - at the municipal level - and reports say that person is still in Taiwan. When the South Korean got the passport late last week, eyebrows were raised in Taiwan because, again, the date of issuance was September ninth - when the new Belizean citizen had been in jail since August.

It's a seamy case, and we expect more revelations in the days to come - as the Ministry of Immigration releases its findings on an internal investigation, which continued today.

For the PM, the scandal emerges comes at a most inopportune time, on the eve of his Independence Day Address, in which he had hoped to gain some political lift by focusing on infrastructure expenditure in the coming months. That speech will be aired live on Channel 7 tomorrow morning.

Channel 7


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#473236 - 09/24/13 10:48 AM Re: Minister of State Hon. Elvin Penner resigns [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Penner Passport Was For S. Korean Fugitive

Tonight, the latest in the Elvin Penner Immigration Scandal is that three immigration officers have been recommended for suspension. A release issued one hour ago from the ministry of immigration says that, quote, "there has been a serious breach of the regulations and rules governing the issuance of this passport and that officers did, whether through negligence or acquiescence, allow a fraud to be perpetrated on the system," end quote.

The release doesn't say much else - and coming four days after the Prime Minister made the first announcement, it has to be viewed as a disappointment. The release still does not disclose who the passport was issued to or under what circumstances. Neither does it say who signed the passport, and under what circumstances, or how the case came to light. But 7news has learned that the new Belizean is Kim Won Hong - who is wanted in South Korea for embezzling millions of dollars from a huge South Korean Firm called SK Shipping Company. An SK executive Chey Tae-won is serving time for the embezzlement - and his case is coming up for appeal. He says Won-hong was the mastermind behind the embezzlement scheme - and that Won-hong swindled him out of half a billion dollars - and that's billion with a "B".

Now Won-Hong is trying to avoid being extradited from Taiwan to South Korea - and that's why he got a Belizean passport. And, multiple sources tell us he paid 120 thousand US dollars to get it expedited through the back door.

Elvin Penner was forced to resign from cabinet because he signed the passport application and the picture - for someone, who by all indications had not entered Belize much less gained permanent residency. The Justice of the Peace who signed it was a former UDP municipal elected representative and the person who reportedly set the events in motion is also a current municipal elected representative. That's Deputy Mayor Eric Chang, who recently accompanied Mayor Darrell Bradley to Taiwan but who has not returned yet.

Because he is not in Belize, we could not reach Chang for comment.

Channel 7


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#473546 - 09/28/13 11:19 AM Re: Minister of State Hon. Elvin Penner resigns [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Penner Speaks, Says Citizen Kim Is A Case Of Identity Fraud

The House of Representatives met today and though Elvin Penner wasn't there, he was much discussed - and we'll have that shortly. But first, to a strange and compelling email we got a few hours ago. The e-mail purports to come from Elvin Penner - who has made no significant comment since he was forced to resign from cabinet eight days ago. We tried to verify its authenticity by texting him but got no response. But we are treating it as real based on the fact that it comes from Penner's known email address - the same one listed as his reference on the Passport Application for Won Hong Kim.

In the email, Penner says that there's been a major mix up. He says, quote, "The events that have been unfolding at the Immigration Department came as a surprise to me as much as they did to you and certainly the Public at large." He continues, quote, "What I do know is that (an) Asian person whom I have known through business trips ,even before I entered politics, came to me for a signature so he could get his passport. He also mention that he needed it urgently since he was about to go on a trip and was more than willing to pay the regular one day service fee."

Penner adds, "The picture on the nationality document he presented to me, the Korean passport that he had with him and the passport size pictures that I also signed did not raise any suspicion since they were all of the same person. The person whom I knew as Mr. Kim."

Penner's email says, he wanted to help a business person and personally went with Kim to the passport office to quote, "see to it that he would get proper attention and would get his passport the same day." End quote.

But, here's where things take a turn: Penner says now that he sees the picture of the person who is said to be Wonhong Kim on the news, that's not the person he gave the passport to. That's a major bombshell! He says, quote, "it has become clear to me that the person for whom I signed the application for could never have been Mr. Wonhong Kim. I can only assume that he was impersonating Mr. Wonhong Kim."

Now, at this point, we will add that there is a great degree of confusion over how Hon Wong Kim looks. Former Channel 5 reporter Jose Sanchez was the first to post this picture on FACEBOOK; but through a source in Taiwan we got this news clip from South Korea - and though the resolution is low and he's wearing a hat, they don't look too much alike. And then we saw the nationality certificate, and that person doesn't like any of the other two!

Mass confusion and the Penner email says, quote, "If you compare the picture of Mr. Wonhong Kim that the media has been showing it does not even remotely resemble the person that presented himself to myself and the immigration department."

And then the email adds, quote, "I can understand having made such a major oversight that in the best interest of the entire country it called for my resignation. what I cannot understand is why the officers have gotten suspended." The email closes with Penner saying, "I will continue to serve my constituency and country as long the people of my area want me to. I did not simply become an elected Area Rep. It is the people of Cayo Northeast who elected me and it is only the people of Cayo Northeast that can remove me as their representative." End quote.


PM Says Penner Didn’t Deny Backdating Nationality Certificate

Now, that's something... Again, it's an email and we could not verify with absolute certainty that it was sent by Penner, but it does come from his known email address.

And while the explanation offered in the mail sets things in a different light - that it was a case of identity fraud - not a fraudulent passport - there are still other issues. Most prominent among them is the backdated nationality document - which is dated April 22, 2013, for a passport issue don September 9th, 2013. Today, at the House of Representatives, the Prime Minister told the public what Penner said about this. But first, the leader of the opposition spoke, basically telling the PM that he had put a rat to mind the cheese:...

Hon. Francis Fonseca
"But ultimately Mr. Speaker, we and the Belizean people have to hold the Prime Minister responsible because he is the one who appointed the member for Cayo North East to this position of Minister of State with responsibility for Immigration knowing fully well - he knew that he was creating a very dangerous situation by doing that."

"He knew. It was well documented before the elections, during the elections and after the elections. He knew, it was well documented that this particular member for Cayo North East had abused the rules and regulations governing that department. It's almost as if the Prime Minister was saying "unu mi di complain bout Penner" - I will put him in charge of the very thing you all were complaining about. That is very concerning."

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
"It's a matter of great regret to me that Mrs. Neal should have been suspended. I am assured by the Minister that Mrs. Neal's suspension comes not in consequence of any suspicion, not even the slightest suspicion that she was involved in anything remotely corrupt. It was just a matter of Mrs. Neal as the supervisor not having dotted an i or crossed a t and it seems the feeling was that she will have to say why there were those administrative omissions."

"It is most unfortunate, this is a woman who is close to retiring and whose entire tenure in the Immigration Ministry has not been solid by even the slightest blemish. It goes very hard against her in deed that she should now be suspended because a finger print didn't appear."

"Whatever Hon. Penner's involvement was and I will come to that, ultimately the people in the passport section had the duty to ensure that everything was in order. To ensure that the applicant for that passport appeared in front of them and had his picture taken. No minister had any authority to override those requirements."

"With respect to the Nationality Section of the department the situation is completely different. It is the Minister who signs the nationality certificate. He doesn't issue the passport but he signs the nationality certificate. In this case the nationality certificate that was involved in the whole chain of events that saw this South Korean national obtains the Belize passport. That nationality certificate was signed by Hon. Penner. Therefore, how are you going to look at the officers in the Nationality Section. They didn't do anything except to provide the file in the normal course when the Minister calls for the file. They didn't have to sign the nationality certificate. That is the reason why there is no focus on the Nationality Section in a way that can see the suspension of any of the officers there. In other words, who has had to fall on their sword with respect to nationality is the Minister of State and this administration will not in fact preside over a process where public officers are made to take the fall for the actions of politicians."

"The distinction as I said with respect to the Passport Section is that absent anything that the Minister had to do. There were requirements that they needed to follow and it appears from the investigation so far that those requirement weren't completely followed."

"Hon. Penner signed this nationality certificate on the 9th of September. That certificate was dated 22nd od April. Hon. Penner said that he signed the certificate without dating it - something that I often do and so the question of who backed dated that certificate remains very much in issue."

"There can be no question in my mind of charging the Minister or the ex-Minister in any criminal way because on the face of it all appeared to be in order with respect to the nationality certificate, absent this issue of the date. Whether you believe him or not that he didn't put in the date of April 22nd you will never be able to establish that in fact he didn't."

"The thing is that what you can't prove is very much in issue. What was eminently provable and what was obvious was enough for me to do what the duties of my office and what my commitment to the people of this country required me to do which is to get rid of Hon. Penner. I did so with a heavy heart. He is a colleague and there is no doubt that his actions have brought shame to this administration and he is paying the price."

"What we would not do is try to cover over the actions of any minister."

"Mr. Speaker, I will again apologize to the people of this country because one of my ministers has let down his colleagues, has let down the Cabinet and has let down the country."

And while the Prime Minister apologized, today the Public Service Union sent a release saying the quote, "await the intervention of the Director of Public Prosecution, and we expect charges to be laid against the Minister of State." End quote.

For its part, the PUP - took an entire week to send out a statement from the Western Caucus. That came out yesterday and it too calls for a criminal investigation and for Minister responsible for immigration, Godwin Hulse to be stripped of his ministerial status. It adds, obliquely, that quote, "the PUP Western Caucus stand(s) ready to pursue the possibility of engaging the Recall Mechanism."


Penner Confirms

And, before we close tonight, we note that during the news we received text message confirmation form Elvin Penner that it is he who sent us that compelling email which we headlined with. As we explained, Penner states that he is a victim of identity fraud because the person who he signed for is known to him - but it's not the same person appearing in the pictures shown in the media.

We note that Won Hong Kim, the prisoner in Tawian has been extradited to South Korea according to most recent reports from South Korea. They say he was extradited at 8:20 on Thursday night and he is described as being the main culprit behind the massive embezzlement scheme.

Channel 7


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#473985 - 10/03/13 11:05 AM Re: Minister of State Hon. Elvin Penner resigns [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Penner Goes To Visit Prime Minister

Tonight, there is so much news coming out about UDP Cayo Northeast Representative Elvin Penner and his role in the facilitation of a passport for South Korean Won Hong Kim.

We'll have extended coverage of all angles tonight, but first, though, to the news of the day. This afternoon at 2:35, the embattled Elvin showed up at the Prime Minister's Belize City Office at the Whitfield Towers. Penner drove himself in his Government issued Four Runner, and after about of nervousness where he knocked down the parking cones, he walked into the building.

After an hour and a half, he emerged from the meeting where the press was waiting. But this time, he didn't have to walk the gauntlet up to his SUV because the Prime Minister's driver brought it up to the door - so he could walk right in. The Press managed to get in one question:..

Reporter
"Sir, will you resign as an area representative?"

Elvin Penner
"As I said before I will continue to serve my people."


Prime Minister Says Penner Came Asking For His Pay

In case you missed it, he said, "I will continue to serve my people." But we're not sure how long that will last because the leader of the opposition - after a long period of inaction today sent a letter to Penner demanding his resignation by Monday October 7th, or face a recall.

More on that later, but first to the Prime Minister's meeting with Penner. What was it about? Well the PM told the press, it was housekeeping:...

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
"Talking about housekeeping matters, he hasn't been paid for the month, and of course while he is no longer Minister of state, he is still a member of the National Assembly."

"I had to call the clerk I haven't been able to find my financial secretary who is in Belize City attending meeting, but we dealt particularly with those sorts of housekeeping matters; how he will be paid now i view of his new status and as well since there is, as I understand it, talk by the opposition of trying to trigger the recall mechanism, that absolutely lovely device that the UDP inserted in the constitution. I wanted to find out from him, what his position was and he was quite open in telling me that he continues to serve his people, that, indeed only his constituents can tell him if it is time to go as a member of the house and so that was basically the extent of it."

Reporter
"Has Mr. Penner been instructed not to answer the media's questions? Because when he left just now, we tried to talk to him but he would not give us any comment."

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
"No, that's entirely another matter for him, in the same way as of course I will always answer the media's questions, as both I think are a personal position and as an official position he in especially in the current circumstances to do otherwise. I can well understand why he might not want at this time to take questions from the media."

"As it is the government and certainly I have said a great deal, about this incident and I continue to repeat that the government acted immediately, the government acted swiftly, the government acted correctly, I will maintain my duty in that regard always. Nobody is trying to give Honorable Penner, a soft landing from the point of view of the government, he is taking his licks and no doubt people will say deservedly so."

"So if in that context he chooses not to say anything for himself, I think perhaps that ought to be respected, in any case people don't have a choice you can't force the man to talk."

Reporter
"What is stopping the police from investigating Mr. Penner?"

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
"But I never said that it was a criminal matter. I look at the circumstances, as closely and as fairly and as critically as I could and I am satisfied that there is no basis on which any criminal charges could successfully be laid. There is no evidence at all, that could sustain a criminal prosecution against Penner. That is my position and I am telling you that, that position doesn't come about because I am in anyway trying to protect Penner, He has been removed he has been in effect been fired."

"But that rule in terms in the material that was before me when I acted, does not reached a level that can sustain a criminal prosecution."

KREM Reporter
"Sir, additional information has surfaced."

Isani cayetano, reporter Channel 5
"Him or Eric Chan, if he is found to be culpable?"

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
"In terms of Eric Chan, I don't know where this comes from. Whatever is been said about Eric Chan is utterly anecdotal. There is total there nothing at all by way evidence or material, to suggest any involvement of the part of Eric Chan. I have heard what you have heard, what the media has heard but do you have any evidence at all to say that Eric Chan played any role in this."

"I have my suspicions but again we must act on the basis of evidence in terms of what Hon. Penner did, there where clear actions on his part that were a matter of fact. I have noting with respect to Eric Chan except what I am hearing and that's scuttlebutt. It may well be true but it doesn't arise to the level of anything that is in the slightest degree actionable."


Immigration Minister Hulse: No Picture, No Fingerprint, No Police Check For Citizen Kim

We'll have a little more from the Prime Minister's Interview very shortly, but to keep things developing thematically, we first have our interview with Immigration Minister Godwin Hulse. We caught up him this afternoon after the Senate Meeting - and got to discuss a hose of issue. Centrally, though, it is the issue of the picture of Won Hong Kim.

This is Kim as he arrived in Taiwan late last week. That image is the same person in the picture on the Belizean nationality certificate and the South Korean passport. So, the same-ness of those two images immediately vaporizes Elvin Penner's explanation that he was tricked because the person he helped get a passport, and who he claims to have known was not the person in jail in Taiwan. Indeed it was. What's more, the picture on the Belizean Nationality Certificate and the South Korean passport are the same - which means Won Hong Kim never took a passport picture in Belize, which is illegal.

These issues were confirmed to us by Minister Hulse today. For the full view, we present an extended portion of that interview:...

Hon. Godwin Hulse, Immigration Minister
"Well Jules, the response from the Taiwanese authorities is that, the photograph appearing in the passport which we and the guy got and on the national certificate is the guy they have jail."

Jules Vasquez
"Won Hong Kim?"

Hon. Godwin Hulse, Immigration Minister
"Yes."

Jules Vasquez
"So then the Minister of State, who claims to us in an email which again he confirms, is his email. he claims to us that he was in direct contact with this person here in Belize. But the person was in jail in Taiwan at the time."

Hon. Godwin Hulse, Immigration Minister
"That is the confirmation we are having from the ministry and as I said we have gone back to them to say not only we want you to confirm to us that that is the person. Please send us a picture so we could be sure."

Jules Vasquez
"So Won Hong Kim, as appears on that Interpol website is not the person in question?"

Hon. Godwin Hulse, Immigration Minister
"Well I have no knowledge of the picture, I don't know where it came from."

Jules Vasquez
"Ok, now the Won Hong Kim that you are talking about - this Interpol, this photograph that you've seen on the nationality certificate and in the Belize passport, and I have also seen it on the South Korean passport, which Minister Penner provided to us in an email scan."

"The question now arises; did this person bypass the entire system, was this picture just imposed, because we know to take a passport picture in Belize you have to go to the office, that didn't happen in this case."

Hon. Godwin Hulse, Immigration Minister
"Well Jules, that is part of the investigations and I don't want to prejudice it, because as you know we have a very expensive system, that is no secret, that was supposed to be design to be fairly full proof. There are two things we required, we required when we changed the passport act that two persons identify you; one in a category A and one in a category B, who would said that who you are. and then of course the other part that is you are a Belizean. Now when those pictures come in and that is who you are, then you are also supposed to bring that in a sit before the camera and have your picture taken. That goes into what we call data capture and it moves through the process, its printed in your passport, it goes through quality assurance, its approved and you get your passport."

"The difficulty we are having with this is that the Taiwanese are saying that, that is the person they have in jail that we have on that. So we still are having that difficulty."

Jules Vasquez
"So then, but it's not really a difficulty Sir. By all appearances outward and inward, this man was never in Belize and is just a case of wholesale fraud."

Hon. Godwin Hulse, Immigration Minister
"Well he was never in Belize. The difficulty we are having is how the picture got into the system, that is the difficulty we are having and so that is a technological thing we are working through, and we have to solve that."

Jules Vasquez
"So then there is a high level of fraud and complicity within the Nationality Section because, there is no way the minister on his own could have imposed that picture into the system."

Hon. Godwin Hulse, Immigration Minister
"Passport area you mean. That is what we are investigating."

Jules Vasquez
"But it is on the nationality certificate as well."

Hon. Godwin Hulse, Immigration Minister
"Yes it is on the national certificate also."

Jules Vasquez
"Which comes from the Nationality section?"

Hon. Godwin Hulse, Immigration Minister
"Yes, that picture is the issue, we want to say at this hour at this time on this Wednesday, and its taking a little long for Belizean public, but we want to be dead certain, because that other picture has surfaced, this picture is there, we have asked them clearly could you confirm and reconfirm and reconfirm, that this is the guy. Not a hearsay thing, that this is the guy, because if this is the guy then that's a different story."

Jules Vasquez
"Now are there finger prints and all, I know that finger prints are taken now as a part of the passport system. Where there any for this case or was that bypass as well?"

Hon. Godwin Hulse, Immigration Minister
"The finger prints are not on the document."

Jules Vasquez
"So, again another aspect of inevitable fraud."

Hon. Godwin Hulse, Immigration Minister
"But again Jules we want to be clear so that we take one step at a time, we want to be absolutely certain first, that the guy that is there on that passport is the guy they have in jail."

Jules Vasquez
"But it sounds like you are having a hard time believing it, because it's such an outrageous fraud."

Hon. Godwin Hulse, Immigration Minister
"Not that I am having a hard time believing it, we want to be absolutely sure, because then that has other implications and so we have to be clear and careful we don't want to be... - persons have said, minister have said that a person came and sat there and the person was known to him and that that is the person appearing there. If that is so then we have a difficulty, we have tried to find out if the guy had twin, a look alike, something. One doesn't know, but still this is the person the Taiwanese are saying they are holding."

Jules Vasquez
"But then if that is the case of such an outrageous fraud, and we don't know that it is. Wouldn't then invoke consideration of criminal charges, uttering upon a forge document, something must arise?"

Hon. Godwin Hulse, Immigration Minister
"The DPP will pick that up."

Jules Vasquez
"One hopes."

Hon. Godwin Hulse, Immigration Minister
"One hopes."

Jules Vasquez
"Sir, and then are you were able to say, if the system existed as it did in the pass with the special branch or the Interpol having to approve it, having to clear all names, Arguably we wouldn't have this problem at this stage or at least this would have more of a paper trail."

Hon. Godwin Hulse, Immigration Minister
"Having to clear all names, we mean in the nationality."

Jules Vasquez
"Yes."

Hon. Godwin Hulse, Immigration Minister
"That system still exist."

Jules Vasquez
"So was that bypass as well?"

Hon. Godwin Hulse, Immigration Minister
"It looks so, we don't have the file and that's the problem. We don't have that part of the file, so we can't say whether in fact there was any police record in there to other things because we don't have that part of the file."

Jules Vasquez
"Sir, and then, do you welcome the filing of a criminal report, by Moses Hyde? That he hopes will produce a police investigation?"

Hon. Godwin Hulse, Immigration Minister
"Well, it's not a matter of welcome Mose Hyde is a private citizen, he is a journalist. Everybody is entitled to do want they want to do. He is calling on the police to take certain actions, that is his prerogative. My position is that we are pursuing the administrative side, because that is what I am in charged with, and trying to see this through to its end, both in terms of officers who may have been involve and also a system that may have been breached."

Jules Vasquez
"As the custodian of our nationality as the Minister of Immigration, you must be interested in preserving as you indicated in the House - that most sacred thing that we have which is our Belizeaness. You must be interested that who violates that is punish not only administratively but to the full extent of the law where applicable."

Hon. Godwin Hulse, Immigration Minister
"If you are asking for my personal opinion, I will say it clear; I am interested in preserving to the maximum Belizean nationality, citizenship and the integrity of the passport and everything. However I have to make a distinction between me calling for those kinds of activities and doing what I do. I stand on the administrative side and that is where I am pushing to the max. There are other agencies that stand on the criminal side. It's their responsibility."

Jules Vasquez
"Sir, I just want to revisit a small part pf what you said; the nationality section, again the Prime Minister has said that 'well, the Minister was able to if that was his choice to trump that entire system because he is the final stop on that system.' However as indicated earlier, it appears rather obviously that there were some complicity if a foreign picture was introduced."

"So then, will you all look at the complicity of persons in nationality section and will they face suspension as did persons in the passport section?"

Hon. Godwin Hulse, Immigration Minister
"There are two things that I want to be clear about. First of all we did look at nationality, it's not that we haven't looked - it's a fallacy to suggest that nationality has not been looked at. It's been looked at in depth. The processes in nationality are not embodied in law and regulations and technology like they are in the passport section."

"In the nationality section, for example, the certificate is a simple document - typed up and signed by the Minister. It is not a complex document like the passport. Even though it comes out of a file that has to be properly developed."

"The final issue of course of the nationality is the swearing in. The swearing has to happen to make it a final approved document and make the person a Belizean. That is under section 17 of the law. We can't get away from that and as far as we know there was no swearing in for this person."

Jules Vasquez
"So then we have confirm, because we know they can be private swearing ins or that such has happened. Did that happen in this case?"

Hon. Godwin Hulse, Immigration Minister
"Not to our knowledge at all."

"When you say private swearing in - let us be clear of the word private. It is always done with a commissioner of the Supreme Court. Its done with the director and all the other personnel's. While it's not a mass swearing with everybody - its an individual swearing in."

Jules Vasaquez
"No such event happened?"

Hon. Godwin Hulse, Immigration Minister
"No such event happened."

Jules Vasquez
"Again it points to multiple reds run by the Minister of State."

Hon. Godwin Hulse, Immigration Minister
"That is a conclusion many people are drawing."

Jules Vasquez
"Sir, its a conclusion any reasonable will draw and I would put to you the only reason you aren't drawing it is because you are a member of the UDP of the government and he is a member of the government - of the legislature."

Hon. Godwin Hulse, Immigration Minister
"No, the only reason am not drawing yet is because we are not finish with the investigation."

Jules Vasquez
"At the end of that investigation, will you be prepared if the evidence supports it to give a maximum indictment against the conduct, behavior and actions of Minister Elvin Penner, former Minister of State?"

Hon. Godwin Hulse, Immigration Minister
"I have no problem with that. I have said my mother, father, brother, sister, wife and anybody else would go down."


PM Says Citizen Kim Passport Irregularities Why Penner Was Fired

When we spoke to the Prime Minister today about that same discrepancy in the photographs - he said that is well known - and said that's why Penner was fired. That portion of the interview got a little contentious as he got into an exasperated exchange with our colleague from KREM Radio Marisol Amaya:..

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
"What Minister may have said, I didn't hear him, about the recipient of the passport not appearing at the passport office in Belmopan was always the fact. We knew from the start that the person to whom the passport was issue was at the time in jail in Taiwan. How does this advance matters? How does that - Penner signed a passport picture and Penner signed a recommendation form. There is nothing that requires the person to be in front of you when you signed the recommendation form or the passport picture."

"You are merely certifying that you know this person and you put for how long you have known this person. Penner tells me that he has met this man some years ago - that the man had in fact visited Belize. Whether that is so or not I don't know. But the fact that according to what you are telling me - that man did not himself appear at the passport office when under the requirements a person being given a passport ought to have appear in person and have his picture taken."

"The fact that that person didn't appear I am saying does not advance the matter because we always knew that. We knew the person to whom the passport was issued was in jail in Taiwan. The people in the Immigration Department who nevertheless issued the passport without the person, the recipient of the passport appearing to have his picture taken - appearing to make the application in person - those persons now has to answer. But how does that make it any worse for Penner? It is bad enough as it is and I have acted. But how does that make it any worse?"

Marisol Amaya, KREM Radio
"It appears that he signed those pictures which are of the person who was in prison at the time and he needed to have appeared in person to take pictures and it appears that the system was altered."

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
"No ma'am, look at the requirements; the persons who signs the passport picture as a recommender, there is nothing that says at the time you sign the passport picture the person must be in front of you."

"If I know Sharon and Sharon sends the picture to me and the application form, I sign the picture that I know her and I sign the form recommending her. The question of having to appear in person in front of someone arises with respect to the people who are processing the application at the passport office. That is not Penner at all, so please get it right man."

Marisol Amaya, KREM Radio
"But he signs the pictures and he is the one who provided those pictures which have been altered."

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
"Ma'am, I am not disagreeing with you that when the application is being process those in the passport office who have to do the data capture should have that applicant in front of them so that the picture can be taken so that the finger print can be attached, but that's not Penner's job and that wasn't Penner's role."

Marisol Amaya, KREM Radio
"But he influenced them."

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
"How do you know that ma'am?"

Marisol Amaya, KREM Radio
"A Minister appearing at an office telling an employee that they need to process this passport. Of course they would have done it."

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
"Ms. Marisol, where is the evidence of that? That Penner went there himself and told them to process it. Penner says no such thing happened."

Marisol Amaya, KREM Radio
"There is some evidence in the pictures that have been provided and people out there believe that the police should come in and investigate it."

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
"You are I believe a sensible journalist. I will respect the fact that you want to go in a certain direction because no doubt that helps you in your profession and makes your news dramatic. Please, we are talking now the level that what is a fact and we are talking at a level of maturity."

"In terms of processing the application Penner has nothing to do with that. I have never heard that the persons who processed the application in the passport office are claiming that Penner came there and told them 'the person isn't here who is making the application, but you will nevertheless process it.' I have never heard that. Where do you get that from?"

"If you have your sources that are saying that, let them come forward, but don't ask me to act on that basis. Don't use that as a platform on which to make your argument that Penner should be charged criminally. There is no evidence of that at all. I keep telling you Penner's role in this thing is bad enough as it is. There is no need to make it worse. His role is not acceptable and that is why he has been removed. But don't make it any worse that it is."


PUP Wants Senate To Investigate Immigration

And while the PM is under pressure, the opposition is pushing the issue. As we already told you, the Leader of the Opposition today sent a letter to Penner demanding his resignation. And in the Senate today, PUP Senator Lisa Shoman spoke on the adjournment urging the creation of a special select committee to investigate the going's on at the Immigration Department. The Senator had no motion prepared but she asked for Government support:..

Senator Lisa Shoman
"Mr. President, the senators from the Opposition's side are making a call today - a public call an urgent call, for us to utilize our powers under the Senate to conduct an investigation and an inquiry into not only the issues surrounding the nationality certificate and issuance to Won Hong Kim, otherwise known in certain sections of the media as "Citizen Kim." That has to do with not only the passport that was issued but also the nationality certificate, the supporting documents, the file and everything surrounding and leading up to the issuance and delivery of a passport to this particular "Citizen Kim.""

"I think all of us as citizens need to know what happen, how it happen, who caused it to happen, who is responsible and most importantly of all we need the assurance that this will never occur again."

"We pass a raft of legislation today Mr. President, in order to satisfy the entire world that we do not condone or do we support illegal activity in Belize."

"Nothing less than the integrity of our nationality certificates and our passports is at stake. I join the call that is coming from the media, that is coming from citizens, that is coming from civil society, that is coming from the opposition for there to be a full and proper accounting of what occurred."

"We as a senate have a constitutional responsibility to call for such a inquiry to take place and to exercise our powers and functions under 61A of the constitution to make sure that such an inquiry takes place."

"I invite all my colleagues' senators to support and join with me in this call. I am hoping it is not necessary to lay a particular motion by one party in this house and I am hoping in fact and inviting the government to be the one to bring this motion to convoke the senate to exercise its powers."

Senator Godwin Hulse
"I was one of the first persons in the history of this country in this honorable senate to participate and in fact to chair a senate investigation into irregularities of the Social Security. Those investigations took 22 1/2 months to be completed and it took an enormous amount of my personal time and effort and money to say the least - personal expenses to see that through. Notwithstanding a report that was submitted - that report languish at the DPP until I think it has become statute and no action whatsoever has been taken on it."

"I want to publicly say here to callers who call in on the radio that there is intent to cover up - there is no intent to cover up anything wrong that has gone on in Immigration or any of the departments under my watch. Its not going to happen and that would apply if it was my mother, father, brother, sister, wife or anybody else. So, please, there is no intention to cover up."

Jules Vasquez
"Minister Hulse made a long declaratory statement but he didn't indicate if he will support you."

Senator Lisa Shoman
"I note that he didn't. Here is the thing Jules, that it is usually as you know the government that brings motions. There is provision for private members to bring motions, meaning members who are not of the government."

"What I am doing is to give the government a fair opportunity for them to invoke the senate powers and call for the senate to exercise its functions by investigating and inquiring into the circumstances having to do with the nationality and the passport of "Citizen Kim" and if the government will not do that then it will be incumbent on me and the opposition to do so."

"One of the things that is important to note is that this is not a partisan issue and that why I have frame it in the way that I have. All Belizeans agree that this is something urgent, that this is something important, that this is what citizens want to see happen. the opposition has the responsibility where the senate has powers to investigate this to call on the government either to initiate it or if will not then we intend to bring a motion before this honorable senate to ask for such an investigation and an inquiry."

Jules Vasquez
"Apparently your call went on deaf ears."

Senator Lisa Shoman
"I don't know that he said no. He said that he welcomes any investigation and I will hold him to that. I heard the Honorable to say that it is the proper function of anybody which is properly constituted to do it work. I heard that very clearly and among those he said the police, DPP and even the Senate. I will wait and I will ask my colleague whether he in fact intends to do this and if he does not then by a motion before the next senate meeting we are going to put it before the House to be debated and discuss."

"I believe that I will get the support from the social sector senators as well."

Jules Vasquez
"You've indicated in there that you will support any investigation. the senate should do it constitutional duty but will the government endorse such a motion if it is brought to the House?"

Senator Godwin Hulse
"We have to see the motion that brought. As I said I see from the Social Security that we took an inordinate amount of time to get it done and many years and nothing happen. I don't want that for this. This needs to be fix and fixed quick. This is why I say that there are many calls to many agencies including the senate. It depends upon what the institution decides. As far as I am concern I don't really think we need a senate investigation into this one. I think it is simple and straight forward, but if the senate has decide that they want an investigation, so be it."

Channel 7


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#474091 - 10/04/13 10:39 AM Re: Minister of State Hon. Elvin Penner resigns [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Penner’s Peculiar Predicament

And while Chang is away, Cayo Northeast representative Elvin Penner is in the hospital. 7news has confirmed that he is in a private facility in Belize City receiving treatment for high blood pressure and other related ailments. We note that Penner has had quite significant health issues in the past while in office and at one point he even went to Cuba for specialized attention. As we understand it, his present condition is not considered life threatening.

But if he is under extreme stress, it's understandable. Yesterday Penner had to face down a throng of media as he was leaving the Prime Minister's office - where he had gone to ask about his pay as an area representative. He didn't give any comment other than the obligatory "I continue to serve my people."

Indeed, Penner's world has been turned upside down since he was forced to resign exactly two weeks ago on September 19th. Since then more and more has become known about the man he helped get a passport, Wonhong Kim. And much of what we know pivots on two things: Penner's email that he sent to 7news last Friday, and Immigration Minister Godwin Hulse's interview yesterday in which he outlined a mass breach in procedure.

Tonight, Jules Vasquez has put together all the information that we've found out so far about Citizen Kim:..

Jules Vasquez reporting
Citizen Kim - so far we know that the date on this nationality certificate was falsified. It says April 22, 2013, presumably to form some connection with the date of a swearing in which was held on April 26, 2013. Penner told the Prime Minister he signed it on September ninth, but never put the date on it.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
"And so the question of who backed dated that certificate remains very much in issue."

"Whether you believe him or not that he didn't put in the date of April 22nd you will never be able to establish that in fact he didn't."

The dubious date aside, we know that no fingerprints were collected from Citizen Kim, nor did he get any vetting from the Special Branch.

Hon. Godwin Hulse, Immigration Minister
"The finger prints are not on the document."

Hon. Godwin Hulse, Immigration Minister
"Having to clear all names in the nationality?"

Jules Vasquez
"Yes."

Hon. Godwin Hulse, Immigration Minister
"That system still exist."

Jules Vasquez
"So was that bypass as well?"

Hon. Godwin Hulse, Immigration Minister
"It looks so, we don't have the file and that's the problem. We don't have that part of the file, so we can't say whether in fact there was any police record in there to other things because we don't have that part of the file."

The picture, which appears in the passport, is the same as the one on the nationality document. It was not taken - as is required - at the Immigration Department. It resembles the picture that appears on WonHong Kim's South Korean Passport issued in December of 2008.

A close look at the image on the nationality certificate shows that it is not an original - nor is it from the immigration system. The top of the head is cropped out and the appearance is irregular.

Hon. Godwin Hulse, Minister of Immigration
"The difficulty we are having is how the picture got into the system, that is the difficulty we are having and so that is a technological thing we are working through, and we have to solve that."

Jules Vasquez
"So then there is a high level of fraud and complicity within the Nationality Section because, there is no way the minister on his own could have imposed that picture into the system."

Hon. Godwin Hulse, Immigration Minister
"Passport area you mean. That is what we are investigating."

Jules Vasquez
"But it is on the nationality certificate as well."

Hon. Godwin Hulse, Immigration Minister
"Yes it is on the national certificate also."

Jules Vasquez
"Which comes from the Nationality section?"

Hon. Godwin Hulse, Immigration Minister
"Yes, that picture is the issue."

That picture is the issue - but it shouldn't be really, this is Wonhong Kim as he arrived in South Korea from Taiwan tied up in rope. It is the same person who is on the nationality certificate and the passport.

This is the man who Penner described in a mail as "a Asian person...I have known through business trips, even before I entered politics."

On the passport application, he writes that Won Hong Kim is his friend who he knew, for 3 years - which differs from the time he entered politics, which is at least six years.

But that is just one small deception within a much larger one. Penner said he was tricked by an imposter. He seized on the opportunity to do that based on the confusion started by this picture which was posted on the Interpol website and passed into Belize Media. But it is not Wonhong Kim - this is the same man in the nationality certificate; Interpol made a mistake, and Penner thought he could use it as a lynchpin to slip out from under a case of what appears to be wholesale fraud.

But in so doing, he dug himself an even deeper hole.

In his email, Penner says he had direct physical contact with Wonhong Kim - a person who was in a Taiwanese jail at the time. He writes of their meeting which took place presumably in early September when he signed Kim's application, ("Mr. Kim)…came to me for a signature so he could get his passport. He also mention that he needed it urgently since he was about to go on a trip and was more than willing to pay the regular one day service fee."

And then Penner says, Wonhong Kim presented the picture himself:

"The picture on the nationality document he presented to me, the Korean passport that he had with him…where (sic) all of the same person. The person whom I knew as Mr. Kim."

And then Penner says he even helped facilitate Citizen Kim. He writes, "Wanting to help a business person I made sure that everything was in order on the application form and personally went with him to the passport office to see to it that he would get proper attention and would get his passport the same day." That same day would be September ninth when the passport was issued.

Now let's got back over that: Penner "personally went with him to the passport office." But how could he go with Kim to the passport office when

Wonhong Kim was on a Taiwanese jail awaiting extradition? That statement is the central confusion in this case:

Hon. Godwin Hulse, Minister of Immigration
"Persons have said, minister have said that a person came and sat there and the person was known to him and that that is the person appearing there. If that is so then we have a difficulty, we have tried to find out if the guy had twin."

Of course, that is remote in the extreme - he doesn't have a twin, it is all a tissue of lies and Penner's last shred of plausible deniability is vaporized.

Bottom line? The man Penner got the passport for is the international fugitive; the man he got the passport for was in jail at the time he got his passport and at the time the passport was applied for.

Jules Vasquez
"Wouldn't then invoke consideration of criminal charges; uttering upon a forge document, something must arise?"

Hon. Godwin Hulse, Immigration Minister
"The DPP will pick that up."

Jules Vasquez
"One hopes."

Hon. Godwin Hulse, Immigration Minister
"One hopes."

But, the Penner Production of Citizen Kim goes deeper. His political ally and former UDP Cayo Mayor Alfonso "Ponchis" Cruz signed the application Penner's driver picked up the passport.

So, if Penner was at the beginning, middle and end of this process, the question then logically arises what role if any did he play in getting the bogus picture inserted on the passport?

Indeed, it would require a level of technical knowledge of the Immigration operating system - one which Penner likely does not possess. But what role did he play in getting it done, in pushing it through?

In his email to 7news, Penner says: "I am certain that the officers did nothing but there (sic) job to the best of their ability and made sure that this gentle man (sic) was properly taken through the application procedures and given his passport before the end of the day."

The statement is odd because as Penner should well know there was no "gentle man" to be "taken through any procedures," there is only Wonhong Kim, international fugitive, safely behind bars at the time while Penner and select Immigration staffers pushed through his fraudulent passport with a complete disregard for procedure: no picture, no fingerprints, no vetting.

Penner says in his email he "went with him to the Passport office" - it is a telling remark, because while there was no "him" to go with, since "him" was in jail - Penner writes that he would, quote, "see to it that he would get proper attention and would get his passport the same day." And indeed that is true to form, because Penner's senior minister told us:

September 30, 2013
Hon. Godwin Hulse, Minister of Immigration

"Minister Penner as an individual has always been personally involved in getting files and getting them signed and taking them to director for vetting etc. He's been aggressive on this front."

Did that "aggression" extend to arranging for a fraudulent photo to be inserted on a passport?

The Prime Minister bristled at the suggestion that Penner could have been involved in inserting the fraudulent picture unto the passport:

October 2, 2013
Prime Minister Dean Barrow
"I am not disagreeing with you that when the application is being process those in the passport office who have to do the data capture should have that applicant in front of them so that the picture can be taken so that the finger print can be attached, but that's not Penner's job and that wasn't Penner's role."

Marisol Amaya, KREM Radio
"But he influenced them."

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
"How do you know that ma'am?"

Marisol Amaya, KREM Radio
"A Minister appearing at an office telling an employee that they need to process this passport. Of course they would have done it."

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
"Ms. Marisol, where is the evidence of that? That Penner went there himself and told them to process it."

The evidence we have of course is Penner's own words when he says, and we repeat: "(I) personally went with him to the passport office to see to it that he would get proper attention and would get his passport the same day."

It is a damning statement since the "him" in this question is Kim, a man Penner is saying he had direct contact with, who was in fact an international fugitive and in jail at the time.

It is a tough one for Penner to dance his way out of - and now he faces the likelihood of a recall vote.

The next move then is for the UDP - to see if they will protect the two term representative and fall in behind him, or cut him off as a public pińata tuned political pariah.

The party is expected to get a sense of the way forward politically when the UDP has a Central Executive meeting this weekend.

As we've reported, the PUP have called for Penner to resign by Monday or face a recall. Well, Penner can't answer right now because he's in the hospital. But the recall - while appealing in name is not that simple - and requires the opposition to pass three tests. First, it requires the collection of the signatures of 30% of the registered voters in that area - and, importantly, those signatures have to be verified. And then 65% of the registered voters would have to vote - which, strategically, the UDP could undermine by just urging their voters to stay home - making sure the 65% threshold is not met. But, if the threshold is met, , the PUP would also have to win a bye-election. Certainly not impossible, but, to be sure, a costly venture for a party that's been low on cash flow recently.

We wait and see how it goes for that Monday deadline.

Channel 7


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#474393 - 10/08/13 11:04 AM Re: Minister of State Hon. Elvin Penner resigns [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Saldivar Says He Has 150 Suspect Penner Immigration Files

Tonight, UDP Cayo Northeast Representative Elvin Penner remains under intense scrutiny and public pressure. The effort to subject him to a recall vote is one thing - while the revelations about his conduct as minister of state keep coming.

Tonight his accuser is PUP politician Arthur Saldivar. Saldivar claims to have 150 suspect nationality documents which Penner signed. Now, Saldivar, who is known to be a little dramatic says these documents were about to be disposed of a by a third party when he acquired them. Today he came to the media with only one, a nationality certificate for a 37 year old man, born in China, living in the Las Flores area of Belmopan. His name is Bo-Jie Shan his certificate was issued in May of 2013, but the receipt for his application wasn't issued by Immigration Officer Ady Pacheco until July of 2013.

Saldivar pounced on that glaring discrepancy in an interview with the media today at the KREMANDALA Compound:..

Arthur Saldivar
"150 files signed by Elvin Penner is within the public prevue. We have those and we will release them. In relation to this particular Bo-Jie Shau; his nationality certificate was signed by Penner on the 22nd May, 2013, but his application was not received by the department until the 10th July, 2013."

Jules Vasquez
"This is one, do you have others?"

Arthur Saldivar
"Yes I have others."

Jules Vasquez
"So why..."

Arthur Saldivar
"Wait man, you can't be greedy."

Jules Vasquez
"Either you are interested in public disclosure or you are running a game."

Arthur Saldivar
"I am not so much in public disclosure. Public disclosure is a necessity at this time to ensure that the ends is met, and the ends is a comprehensive investigation of the Immigration Department."

"It is the investigation of wrong that is my interest. Not disclosure, not publicity."

Jules Vasquez
"Are there consistent inconsistencies?"

Arthur Saldivar
"Yes, there are consistent inconsistencies and there is the greatest consistency the signature of Elvin Penner who has proven to be a very untrustworthy unreliable public servant."

Jules Vasquez
"Did he sign all 150?"

Arthur Saldivar
"Every one of them."

Jules Vasquez
"Are they all for Asians or Middle-Eastern or are they Mexicans; what?"

Arthur Saldivar
"Asians, Middle-Eastern, a Guatemalan governor and Pakistanis - the Asian sub-continent Pakistan."

Jules Vasquez
"And all of them have inconsistency?"

Arthur Saldivar
"Every one of them. I will be releasing, myself or my associates will be releasing each day until the department is closed down, copies of which we have originals of - each day."

"We are basically urging the Commissioner of Police who has received one of these documents by fax to do what is necessary now and act. Close down the Nationality and Passport Section of the Immigration Department - treat it as a crime scene. Go systematically all the files at Immigration to determine how many of these documents exists, who sign them and under what circumstances they were signed."

"The Police Department have within its prevue the ability to check immediately at the special branch because to get a Nationality certificate, one first have to submit a police record for vetting at the special branch."

We could not get any comment from the Immigration Department. We do know that their internal investigation is underway - and that is scheduled for completion on Wednesday October the ninth. That's also when the suspensions for the three officers form the nationality section will be finished. They were suspended on September 30th for producing a passport without an original picture and with no fingerprint back-up in the system.


No Resignation, Let’s Get Ready for a Recall

So while that new revelation is one leg of the story - the other is whether Elvin Penner will resign or face a recall election - the terms put to him in an ultimatum from the Opposition. As the Prime Minister and Party leader Dean Barrow alluded to on Friday, Penner won't resign. Today's 5:00 pm deadline came and went without any word from Penner or the UDP camp. We take that to mean that they're paying no attention to the Leader of the Opposition's ultimatum - which came and went without comment from either political.

So, then recall it is - and this weekend in the 7 villages of Cayo northeast the PUP were out gathering signatures to make it to that 30% threshold - which would be about 1800 registered voters. 7news went to Cayo northeast for that story - and here's what Daniel Ortiz found:...

Daniel Ortiz reporting
The Posters up in The Cayo Northeast Constituency continues to announce Area Representative Elvin Penner as "Humble", "Dedicated", and "Honest". These are remnants of the 2012 General Election, but the PUP hopes that his constituents no longer look to him as the man who best represents to these ideals on their behalf.

They started the process to trigger Penner's recall this weekend, following the blowback from the unfolding Immigration Scandal which implicates the current Area Rep.

The PUP wants to install Orlando "Landy" Habet, who lost to Penner in 2012 Elections by a margin of 17 votes:

Orlando "Landy" Habet - PUP Caretaker, Cayo Northeast
"The Party Leader wrote him a letter and asks him to resign by Monday; otherwise we would submit signatures with a petition for a recall of his seat."

As a result they set out to campaign from house in all the villages.

Hon. Julius Espat - Deputy Leader, PUP
"We have all the players from the Western region coming together and taking charge of different villages based on the structure that we have implemented."

Orlando "Landy" Habet - PUP Caretaker, Cayo Northeast
"We have initiated the process. We have had the support of the Western Caucus, we have had the support of our national party and our leader and we have commenced a drive today visiting the villages."

"We have 7 villages, so we have 7 teams; one in each village collecting the signatures from all those people who are so aggrieved by what has happened."

And to ensure that every single signature is reconciled at the Elections & Boundaries Department, each PUP operator collecting them has a rigorous process, so as to avoid the OCEANA referendum dilemma of last year:

Gina Tillett - Collecting Signatures
"You have to come in with a valid and you have to be a voter for Cayo Northeast Division. We are presently working in Esperanza today. While we are focusing on the Esperanza people - if you vote in Northeast you can also register here."

"You have to bring a valid ID; voters ID, drivers' license, Social Security, passport preferably and what we do is we full in the name; voters ID, address, phone number and your signature has to be identical to the one on the document provided."

"We also to ensure everything, take a picture of the person's voter ID as well back and front to verify everything because we don't want the same thing to happen to us that happen with the Oceana referendum."

Hon. Julius Espat - Deputy Leader, PUP
"This is an opportunity for the people of Belize to see if that law that has been put in place - if it is a worthwhile law. We have already seen where a non-political organization has tried to use it which is Oceana in the referendum, so now we are doing the political part as it pertains to the recall to see if the laws that government put in place are really truly put in place to serve the people or are they are just done as a facade."

And speaking about appearances, the Recall of Elvin Penner is symbolic in nature because those expected to support and participate in it are those constituents who are aggrieved by the immigration scandal.

The PUP is banking on a lot of "if's". If the 1,700 voters sign, then the recall is triggered. If 65% of electorate votes then recall becomes valid. Finally, if Orlando Habet is able to win the bi-election, he will become the new Area Rep for Cayo Northeast, but the UDP will still control the majority seats, and they will maintain control of the Government.

Those if's look challenging in the face of the fact that only 73% - 8 more than what the recall test requires - showed up for the 2012 General election in Cayo Northeast. And that number came out for all the marbles, when both parties were at the maximum output in machineries to mobilize their voters for a new Government.

Hon. Julius Espat - Deputy Leader, PUP
"It is not our role to decide if the people want it; it is the people's decision. We are here to give the people options and we are here to exercise it and we are here to push our part of the story. It is the people at the end of the day that needs to decide."

"If they believe that by Landy going in it comes closer to the ultimate goal which is a change of government then that is where we are going. If the people don't think it's time, then we will respect that. But we as the loyal opposition have to give the options so that people can have choices to make."

Orlando "Landy" Habet - PUP Caretaker, Cayo Northeast
"We have made firstly inform our people who are working on the ground today about all the implications and all the methodology, the protocol behind it and they have to understand and they do because we have already informed them, that this is just the initial process to trigger that mechanism for the recall."

"When the time for the referendum comes out and we need that 65% - they have to be there to own it, they have to bring out the people."

The PUP are confident, and they've given themselves a deadline to present these signatures to trigger the recall.

Orlando "Landy" Habet - PUP Caretaker, Cayo Northeast
"We are conscious that this is just the initial process as I mentioned earlier and the tomorrow we continue. We are giving ourselves at least a week to be able to contact the people who are not available today and tomorrow and we believe we would be able to garner that 30% of the signatures from the voters that are registered in Cayo Northeast."

This evening, 7News spoke to Joseph Mahmud, the PUP Cayo North representative, and the main coordinator of the recall effort. He told us that they have a goal to present 2,100 signatures, and according to him the counting still continues. Mahmud reported to us that so far, the count is at 1,200. He also tells us that the threshold is 1,800, not 1,700 as was noted in our story.


>FIU Director Says She Has Launched Penner Investigation

So far we've dealt with the political angle of the Penner story - and the other side of that is the investigation. The DPP has said that she feels there is enough to warrant a police investigation. The Director of the Financial Intelligence Unit - which would watch for suspicious movements of money feels the same way. In fact, Director Marilyn Williams told us today that she has already started her investigation:..

Marilyn Williams, Director of the Financial Intelligence Unit
"The FIU based on the laws under which they are mandated will in fact actually have already started the process of an investigation. Unfortunately I am not in a position to give any details whatsoever. The type of investigation that we do must be done - I wouldn't say in private but certainly not open for public discussion."

Marisol Amaya, KREM Radio
"You can't say what say exactly the investigation was launched?"

Marilyn Williams, Director of the Financial Intelligence Unit
"It was launched a week ago."

And while Williams is underway - we can't say the same for the police. You see, Commissioner Allen Whylie was on leave last week - and this morning when we caught up with him at a conference, he said he hadn't even been back to his office yet to get up to speed on happening sin his department. Here's how Whyle brushed us off:..

Allen Whylie, Commissioner of Police
"As I said I was out of office, so I can't comment. I need to get in office to see what has been said, what has been submitted to me before I could say something."

Geovanni Brackett, reporter
"Have you heard anything on the news?"

Allen Whylie, Commissioner of Police
"No."

Whylie told us that where he lives he can't see the news, and hardly even gets a radio signal.

Channel 7


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#474961 - 10/16/13 10:57 AM Re: Minister of State Hon. Elvin Penner resigns [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Historic First: PM Calls On Penner To Resign And Face Recall

When we left you on Friday - the UDP were rolling out to Cayo Northeast to defend Elvin Penner and his seat, but tonight, the political landscape has changed completely. It is like night and day: today the Prime Minister said Penner's actions are indefensible and is calling for him to resign as standard bearer so that a new candidate can be elected in a bye-election.

It is a historic first in Belizean politics and an incredibly risky maneuver for the UDP, which only has a slender two seat majority in the house, but Barrow says new evidence forced his hand.

That evidence was unearthed by the Immigration Minister, the Director of Immigration and the CEO this weekend who reviewed files amassed since April - when Penner was first given authority to sign nationality certificates. Barrow told the media at a hastily called press conference at the NEMO Conference Room in Belmopan that the new information shows that Penner has to go, from the house of representatives and from the UDP.

He interrupted Cabinet to hold the press conference - with all his ministers in two - and after he had called Penner in Guatemala to give him the news:

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
"More evidence has surfaced of the involvement of Elvin Penner in other instances of what to us is impropriety. The material presented to Cabinet was and is enough for us to feel that Elvin Penner was involved in additional instances of what I will term "irregularities." We can in the circumstances no longer continue to support Elvin Penner, meaning; that in our view he cannot any longer continue to represent the people of the Cayo Northeast constituency as and in the name of the United Democratic Party."

"The discovery now of the other instances means that we would have to be more merciful that great God in the sky if we did not think that this now puts paid to any questions of a second chance for Penner under the egis of the United Democratic Party"

"We hereby invite Hon. Penner to resign his seat, to resign in fact from the United Democratic Party. We cannot expel Penner from the House of Representatives. If Hon. Penner heeds our request that he resign from the House or that he resign from the UDP which would produce the same result, then the procedures are set in motion for him to vacate the seat and for a bi-election to take place."

"If Hon. Penner refuses to resign from the UDP or from the House, I am afraid there is not a thing that any of us can do to oust him from that seat. If Hon. Penner refuses to resign and that petition is successful, meaning that the requisite number of signatures is collected and that the chief elections officer verifies those signatures then there would be this recall referendum which provides this alternative route of causing Penner to lose his seat."

"We believe that it would be far neater, far less messy for Penner to do what we believe is the right thing by his party and by his people and in fact heed the call to resign."

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
"We go forward and we seek to retain this seat whether it is by way of a recall, referendum, or whether it is by way of a bi-election. We are prepared for it. In fact I even say it in Spanish "Con o sin Penner. El UDP va seguir, el UDP va continuar, el UDP vas ganar."

So what is the incriminating new evidence and what is the extent of it? Well Immigration Minister Hulse would not discuss the extent of it - since it is the subject of ongoing investigations. But he did say that it has to do with missing files - of which they found a few traces still in the system:

Hon. Godwin Hulse, Minister of Immigration
"Even though now there are files that we cannot locate we are able to retrieve enough documentation to be able to establish a paper trail. As Hon. Prime Minister said that may not be sufficient for the authorities to seek any conviction. I think he laid that out very well, but it was sufficient for me to sensitize the Prime Minister and the Cabinet of this situation."

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
"The Immigration Department has a system by which as a kind of backup, documents are scanned. The Minister produces to me some of the scanned documents. That's perfectly enough for me to come to a conclusion. That's perfectly enough for me to determine that on the facts as disclose by those scanned documents somebody is guilty of wrong doing."

Hon. Godwin Hulse, Minister of Immigration
"What I can properly say at this time, we continue with this investigation. It's a large amount of files we have to look at very carefully to be absolutely sure that we don't disenfranchise those persons who rightfully, righteously obtained their nationality certificates and their passports but select or deselect those who didn't do so, or who were facilitated in not doing so."

"We intend to see this process through. That we want to say and we intend also to make the administrative changes within the department so that we bring an end to what I will call a long, long, long history of wrong doing in the Department of Immigration."

"I want to reiterate there are good persons in that department who have cooperated with us. There is a lot of friction in the department, let's not fool ourselves. There are a lot of things that are happening in there and this is why those who are out there suggesting that files are all over the place - there are a lot of things that are happening in there and people are trying to protect themselves and protect their backs and protect their friends and those who they need to protect, that's a fact. We are fighting against that wave of resistance, but I can assure the Belizean public that battle we will win."

And while Hulse is determined to clean up the Immigration Department, politically, it's not that simple. That's because Penner - who is in Guatemala receiving medical attention - must choose to vacate his seat. And while the PUP is working on a recall petition at what appears to be a less than furious pace - now they have the implicit support of the UDP, but Barrow says that support cannot be explicit:..

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
"With respect to the recall mechanism - we're not going to go out there and ask people to sign the recall petition. Her majesty's loyal opposition has undertaken that assignment and we will give them ample opportunity to complete their assignment. We will certainly I believe take down the banners that say "don't sign the recall petition" and we will not have people on the streets in Cayo Northeast telling the voters not to sign the recall petition, let that process work and let the chips fall where they may."

"Penner has reach the end of the road with the United Democratic Party. While we have taken a decision that's entirely within authority in Cabinet, I don't believe we want to preempt the larger party. I would give you my personal position and I suspect that would also be the position of my colleagues - we are not going to go out there and slaughter Penner, we are not going to do it, but to ask us to actually join some sort of a street campaign against a former colleague we believe is asking us to go too far."

And while the reversal in the Prime Minister and Party Leader's position between last week and this week may give you whiplash, the PM said today that in fact he never defended Penner - and now that there are more revelations, he most certainly will not protect him:

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
"I don't know that I ever defended Penner, I moved immediately the evidence was brought to me to fire him and with respect to the recall petition; I made clear that I thought that in the circumstances as it then stood he was entitle to try to vindicate his right to resist the petition with the evidence. We still want to maintain our majority. We would prefer of there were to be no bi-election. A bi-election is a no win proposition for us in this sense - we already hold the seat. All we can do in a bi-election is to retain it. We can't gain an additional seat and of course there is always the possibility that we could lose the seat. We don't think so and based on my tour this weekend in Cayo Northeast. We have every confidence that we can win a bi-election. The point is that we are prepared to put it all on the line. We are prepared to contemplate the possibility of being one more seat down if that is what is required for us to do the right thing."

And of course, the perverse interpretation of a lot of the Penner protecting that we saw last week is that the Cayo northeast representative knows where the bodies are buried, so to speak. As an aggressive actor in the immigration department, Penner - it has been speculated - certainly should have known about the issuance of visa's to suspect persons which caused the Prime Minister so much agony. And, it is felt, that if the UDP didn't stand behind Penner, he may have blown a very loud whistle on widespread irregularities in the department, including what we have heard is a visa quota system assigned to ministers with Cabinet's blessing. But today, the Prime Minister completely rejected that interpretation:..

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
"The evidence that the Minister has uncovered shows no not even the slightest indication of any other minister being involved in any kind of passport scheme such as is suggested Penner may have been involved in. If we were as you put it trying to protect Penner and I say again for the record I reject that phraseology in order to safeguard other ministers - why would we stop now? How on earth would you have gotten to know of what it is that Minister Hulse and two of his most senior, most trusted officials have now discovered."


PM Discusses the Penner Back-Story

There were nine or ten meetings held in Cayo Northeast this weekend and Elvin Penner did not attend any of them. We spoke to the Prime Minister about his extended absence and whether that or other reasons influenced the change in position. Once of those reasons possibly being that the UDP asked him to resign before he was induced by the other side.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
"In terms of Penner being a dead weight or the consideration of his perhaps being induced by the opposition to resign - well, I did hear that, but I had a couple of meeting with Penner and quite frankly I was satisfied that Penner isnt going to go. Penner obviously was harboring thoughts of perhaps be able at some point to make his way into the Cabinet - I put paid to that on Thursday and I think that upset him. Penner was harboring thoughts in any event being able to run again at the next general elections - this has now paid to that, but all I am saying is that in all those circumstances I was convinced that he wasn't going to go anywhere."

"Really, it is the honest truth - what has changed now is the evidence that Hulse found over the weekend."

Jules Vasquez
"Was his absence at the meeting - was he required to be at those public meetings? Nine or ten of them he didn't appear."

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
"No, initially the plan was that he would be a part of the tour, but on Friday afternoon he indicated the he had to go urgently to Guatemala where he says he get treatment, not just for hypertension, but for blinding headaches that he says have been troubling him for a while now. One can understand that. In the teeth of all this pressure he said he had some sort of relapse and he said he needed to got to Guatemala and we accepted that."

"Again in a sense it played right into my hands because I wanted to get a kind of independent feel for how the constituency was reacting and in his presence I might not have been able to do that. In his absence there was a great deal of plain speaking and I believe that I was able to asses fairly accurately what the party's chances would be in a bi-election."


Saldivar Resurfaces With Promised Trove Of Trashed Immigration Files

And in another story that surely would have been a headline on any other day, today Arthur Saldivar resurfaced. He hasn’t been arrested and his home hasn’t been searched but he did have – as promised – a big bag of immigration files with multiple green folders. They would appear to be compelling evidence of widespread corruption for the media to look over – but they were just flashed before the media – before the entire bag was taken to police. Saldivar spoke to the media in Independence Hall after the PUP Press conference had reportedly refused to take his matter on board.

Channel 7


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#475056 - 10/17/13 10:30 AM Re: Minister of State Hon. Elvin Penner resigns [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Saldivar's Documents Re-examined

And, as you saw, lost in the mix of political gamesmanship leading up to a possible bye-election was Arthur Saldivar and his Immigration documents. Last week he strutted across the public stage, a louche whistle blower with not just horse-hair, but the entire horse-hide in hand, making glib promises about “a document a day” and sponsoring a media worker to go to South Korea to talk to Citizen Kim.

And then, suddenly, he was a fugitive on the run, and then…he fell off the radar; “to be continued…” he said. But yesterday the Saldivar mini-series came to a too-abrupt end: he posted a few documents on facebook, flashed them before the media, and handed them over to police. He was, in the end, it appeared, beleaguered by the burden of the documents. Tonight we take a look at those few documents that Saldivar has posted online:


Jules Vasquez Reporting

Commissioner of the Supreme Court Winston Smiling carried the bag full of immigration files, along with an entourage of sorts from the PUP Headquarters down the street to the Queen Street Police Station.

Jules Vasquez
"Why didn't you share it with the media first and then with the authorities? We may never see these again."

Arthur Saldivar
"But I did. I did; it's on Facebook. Go on Facebook; it's there."

On Saldivar’s page we found pictures various nationality documents - 15 of them in total - including pictures of the green ledgers - complete with file numbers, the nationality files he promised. The documents do appear genuine, but they are incomplete.

There are nationality certificates signed by Penner but missing the seal, more than one like that police records without signatures of the applicants.


Taken in totality, the documents including American, Cuban, and Taiwanese passports - look like works in progress gathered from someone who was running some kind of backdoor operation out of the Immigration office and putting files together piece by piece. They certainly speak to corruption and from the fact that they are not in the Immigration Office means something is very wrong. But with only these scraps of data really that’s all that can be said. Saldivar says he got them from parties who were setting to destroy them.

And while he posted 15, from what was flashed before the media there are more in the files, but it is now a matter for police.

Arthur Saldivar - Handed Files Over
"It's out of my hands now, Rowland. It's out of my hands now."

Rowland Parks - Reporter Press
"Why do you say that it's out of your hands now?"

Arthur Saldivar
"It's time for it to go where it needs to go."

So what will police now do with the documents? That’s what we asked the police commissioner Allen Whylie via text this afternoon. Commissioner Whylie sent us a response a few minutes ago saying, quote, “(the files) were brought by the police from Belize City today and hand delivered to the investigator. (They) will be utilized by him in his investigation.” End quote

Channel 7


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