December 05, 2008

The tide in Belmopan changed dramatically this morning where a considerably small gathering of friends and family assembled in front of the Belmopan Police Department awaiting the arrival of former Minister of Housing Ralph Fonseca. Fonseca entered the police station inconspicuously where he was legally arrested and escorted to the magistrate’s court. Fonseca’s arrest is the second of two arrests made against former PUP ministers accused of stealing ten million U.S. dollars granted to Belizeans last year by the government of Venezuela. While the former party leader’s arrest yesterday was met with the support of his constituents as well as elder statesmen of the nation’s oldest political party things today were noticeably different for Fonseca. During the procession from the police station to the Magistrate’s Court he was jeered by onlookers who reminded him of all the wrongdoings they endured during the PUP’s terms in office. The procession included party notables Florencio Marin Sr. and Jr., Luke Espat, Cassian Nunez, Vildo Marin, David Fonseca among others. In Court, Magistrate Earl Jones read to Fonseca a single charge of theft stemming from a grant that was given to Belizeans by Venezuela which was to have been used for various housing projects. Instead the money was used to finance a private loan involving Universal Health Services. Fonseca, represented by a smaller panel of lawyers, was given and met bail in the sum of one hundred thousand dollars plus a surety of the same amount. In a strange twist to what many thought was rather ironic is the fact that Fonseca is being represented by lead attorney Michael Peyrefitte. He is also defended by Francis Fonseca and Richard ‘Dickie’ Bradley. Ironic because Fonseca maintains that the proceedings are a result of political victimization carried out against former PUP ministers; however, his key lawyer is a known UDP supporter who ran against and lost to Francis Fonseca in this year’s general elections. We caught up with Fonseca as he left the Magistrates Court.
Ralph Fonseca, Former Government Minister

“This is yet another outrageous, yet characteristic UDP political persecution. Anyone, anyone at all that knows the real facts will also know that this charge is ridiculous. I am confident, and I have been assured by my legal counsel that this will be proven to be ridiculous. You all know for the last 20 years I have been in the center of the greatest political movement in Belize. We have won many battles and we have built Belize for the benefit of hundreds of thousands of Belizeans. In the process we gained many fantastic friends but we also made many dangerous enemies. Those enemies must realize that I know exactly who they are and I will be praying for all of them that they be relieved of that pain from which they suffer, from the hate of Ralph Fonseca and his accomplishments.”

We also spoke with attorney Michael Peyrefitte who explained to us the nature of the case brought against his client.

Michael Peyrefitte, Attorney at law

“A client of mine has been charged with an offense under the law, it is an indictable offence. We come back January 16 and we see what the prosecution has for us. We are not responsible for the charges that are brought; the crown is responsible for the charges. The legal ramifications of the charges will be played out in court.”

According to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Cheryl Lynn Branker-Tait the case against Fonseca is straightforward as it relates to the same charge levied against former Prime Minister Said Musa. The case has been adjourned until January 16th next year.