BELMOPAN, Belize: Former Prime Minister of Belize Said Musa has been charged with stealing US$10 million.

The charge relates to a grant from Venezuela that was intended for the construction and repair of houses for poor Belizeans.

Director of Public Prosecutions, Cheryl-Lynn Branker-Taitt, alleged that Musa, whose People's United Party (PUP) was in office when funds were received from the Hugo Chávez administration in Venezuela in December 2007, gave directives for the money to be used to settle a debt by a private health institution - Universal Health Services.

Said Musa, former Prime Minister of Belize
The former prime minister, who was swept from office in the February 7 general elections, issued a statement last week in which he said his actions were motivated by a desire to save a tertiary care health facility and that, while the public may not agree with that decision, he did not commit a crime.

Musa said that he is innocent of the charges and alleges "that the regime is trying to harass me, trying to shame me, but in face they are shaming themselves because they are dragging our country, Belize, down to the level of a failed state, where a rogue totalitarian regime is subverting the justice system, controlling the justice system, and using it and instructing people to use it to persecute and to jail their political opponents."

Musa told Belize 5 News that he was not worried about the charge and added, "What is very worrying is the amount of victimisation that is going on in our country This is the distraction that they are trying to create from the major political victimisation against hundreds of innocent people, many single mothers can’t even feed their babies today because of this vindictive government who have taken away people from their jobs."

The former Prime Minister told Belize News 5, "I acted in good faith always when I secured the grants from Venezuela for the benefit of the Belizean people."

A large crowd turned up at court to support the former Prime Minister, who was placed on US$100,000 bail.

If convicted, Musa could spend a maximum of 10 years in jail.