Former Prime Minister Said Musa this morning appeared before Magistrate Earl Jones in the Belmopan Magistrates Court to stand trial in a case of Theft. On December 4th last year Musa was arraigned on a single charge of Theft stemming from a US$10 million grant given to Belize by the Government of Venezuela.
Musa arrived at the courthouse shortly after 9:00 this morning sans [without and in the absence of] the fanfare of a large group of supporters and family members who converged on the capital city last December. Instead he proceeded in the company of his defense team which consists of 7 high profile lawyers. Those lawyers are Lisa Shoman, Anthony Sylvester Jr., Arthur Saldivar, Kevin Arthurs, Karim Musa, Francis Fonseca and Senior Counsel Edwin Flowers.
In court Musa was rather calm and composed while his lawyers prepared for the hearing. No less than five minutes into the proceedings a motion to adjourn the case was brought forward by the defence. Lead attorney Edwin Flowers cited that the disclosure presented by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Cheryl Lynn Branker-Tait, on December 31st did not allow for the 14-day period under the Indictable Procedure Act for the defence to review the case being presented against Musa.
With that the case was adjourned until January 29th when a preliminary inquiry is set to begin. During that session the defense will also be expected to make its submission.
We spoke with Senior Counsel Lisa Shoman following the adjournment.
Senior Counsel Lisa Shoman
“When we came to court the last occasion the DPP herself committed to giving the disclosure by the 18th December. According to the Indictable Procedure Act it must be given to the accused 14 days before and that would have meant the 23rd of December. Not only did the DPP not give it on the 18th as promised, but it didn’t come on the 23rd either. So the Magistrate decided that since the defense team only got the disclosure last week Friday - that is less than seven days ago- it would not be prudent for us to continue today because the act says clearly there must be a period of 14 days.”
Attorney Anthony Sylvester Jr. also spoke about the disclosure presented by the prosecution.
Attorney Anthony Sylvester
“I think it’s very important and this point has to be made; after the DPP had indicated as well on the last occasion, on national television that the decision to charge with Mr. Musa with theft was taken after analyzing documents for some several months. This is the disclosure that has been provided; it consists of 3 statements, one given by the Prime Minister which is dated the 5th of November, one given by Miss Audrey Wallace who is the Chief Executive Officer in the office of the Prime Minister, and one given by Miss Amalia Mai dated the 31st of December. It is important for the Belizean public to understand the date of these statements in terms of chronology. You will recall that the news of the imminent arrest of Mr. Musa first surfaced in the Guardian newspaper in the edition of 14th of November. So if we actually follow the chronology, we had the statement of the Prime Minister being given on the 5th of November and the statement of Miss Wallace being given on the 10th and days later in the Prime Minister’s party’s newspaper we had this news of the imminent arrest. These are things we think which confirm to us that there is some political backdrop to these charges.”
In related news, former Minister of Housing Ralph Fonseca is scheduled to reappear in court on January 16th to answer to the same charge. Both Musa and Fonseca maintain that the current administration is on a political witch hunt against former government ministers.