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#472519 - 09/14/13 06:00 AM Alleged Corruption in Construction of Market  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 57,785
Marty Offline
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Allegations of extortion are being made against employees of the Social Investment Fund, SIF. Now while these allegations are just surfacing, Love News has obtained documents indicating that these allegations have been occurring since 2009. But first we’ll tell you how the allegations surfaced. The Social Investment Fund, through its Belize Municipal Development Project is funding the Dangriga Market Extension and the Renovation Project to the tune of exactly, one million three hundred and seventy thousand- three hundred and forty nine dollars and fifty cents. The project was to be completed in July of this year. SIF terminated the contractor, Kenard Smart of K&G Limited, contract. In the process, two financiers are worried that their accumulated hundreds of thousands of dollars were lost. Today, those financiers launched a lawsuit against Smart and the Social Investment Fund.


“The contract to realize the Dangriga Market Extension and Renovation Project at a cost of one point three million dollars was awarded to Kenard Smart, Principal of K&G Ltd. The Social Investment Fund is financing the project but recently terminated Smart’s contract after it appeared that the project was not progressing as expected. After experiencing financial woes, Smart, sought monetary assistance from developers Lyndon Bailey and Emy Ramirez. They invested hundreds of thousands of dollars which they now regret.


“I want to say for the record, Mr. Smart should never been overpaid that SIF would have to use our money to fill the gap of the money shortage; so, right now when you look at SIF paperwork, it looks good but we are out three hundred and add thousand dollars; where is our money? This is what I am asking Mr. Cano and those who work at SIF. We didn’t put our money in Mr. Smart’s hands; we went and purchased materials and we didn’t just come to this job by Mr. Smart; we made sure that SIF approved us under the contract; so, I am not someone that SIF could just throw away.”


“We have injected over five hundred thousand dollars plus one hundred and thirty seven thousand dollars that was held with the bank for a bond. If they don’t resolve things and pay damages that are incurred surely, we would have to press legal action. I have a contract with Smart and also SIF acknowledged it because there has been communication with SIF and Mr. Smart and there is documentation to prove it. The works here have not halted and the work continues.”


“Determined to get their money back, both Bailey and Ramirez hired Audrey Matura Shepherd as their lawyer. This afternoon, Matura-Shepherd served the Executive Director of SIF, Daniel Cano, with papers. The matter will now proceed before the courts. But what may have caused, Smart to lose financial focus on the project. Well according to an email dating February 21, 2013, sent by Smart to the Contractor General, Smart writes quote, “more evidence to show that between 2009 and 2012 that at least four SIF Staff and their managing director have extorted me or shake me down if I did not want to pay the monies requested from me”, end of quote. The email further lists the employees involving in the alleged extortion along with the sum of money allegedly paid to each one of them. One of those persons is the Executive Director of SIF, Daniel Cano. Cano responded to the allegations and says that an investigation has been launched into the matter.”


“I am aware of the allegations and it’s something very serious that has been alleged and it will certainly impact people’s careers and the image of SIF and it is something that already an investigation has started by an entity outside of SIF, the Office of the Contractor General and am sure that if any wrong doing is found that will be dealt with as it should be. A number of allegations are being made and those need to be investigated fully. On my personal basis, am not speaking on behalf of SIF or anything, yes, I fully deny having received anything from Smart.”


“Over seven hundred thousand dollars is left from the project’s fund and according to a letter sent to Ramirez, states that quote, “A substantial payment to Mrs. Ramirez is expected shortly for a payment application,” end of quote. Reporting for Love News, I am Hipolito Novelo. “

Love News tried to get in contact with Smart but our attempts prove futile. We will keep following up this story and bring to you any available updates.


#472670 - 09/17/13 05:06 AM Re: Alleged Corruption in Construction of Market [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 57,785
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline

Concrete, Actionable Allegations of Corruption At SIF: Board Sanctions Terminations

Tonight, SIF, the Social Investment Fund is reeling after mass terminations - resulting from concrete, actionable allegations of corruption. 7news has confirmed that the Board of Directors had an emergency meeting at 2:00 this afternoon in Belmopan and highly placed sources tell us that they took the decision to terminate as many as four employees, while also asking Executive Director Daniel Cano to resign.

According to a release issued a few minutes ago, quote, "The meeting is still in session and a statement will be issued tomorrow morning detailing the outcome. "

The meeting had key input from the contractor general who has been investigating allegation of corruption at SIF for some time, too long a time, according to some. We say that because those concrete allegations were made 7 months ago by a contractor SIF had retained to build the New Dangriga Town market. He is Kennard Smart, and tonight, we'll look at those allegations of corruption:...

Jules Vasquez reporting
Two months after The Dangriga Market was supposed to have been completed, it stands walled off, ugly and incomplete - a testament to all that can go wrong between incompetence and apparent corruption at the executing agency, the Social Investment Fund.

The contractor K and G Construction shut down work on the project - because it owed too many people and couldn't pay.

In February of 2013, Contractor Kennard Smart - who is a former UDP convention candidate sent an alarming email to the contractor General - pleading for his intercession in what he characterizes as a case of corruption run amuck.

He says, quote, "between 2009 and 2012, at least four SIF staff, have extorted me or shake me down if I did not want to pay the monies requested from me."

Smart then lists various cheques which were paid to SIF Staffers. Though our colleagues at Plus TV - we have obtained copies of two of them: this one for $500.00 to Mike Hernandez the Public Relations Director at SIF which was paid in December of 2009.

And then on 30th September of 2010, Smart paid Enrique Romero - a SIF Officer with this thousand dollar Scotiabank cheque.

Romero also got another one thousand dollar cheque on the 16th of March 2010 - which again, was signed and cashed.

We have copies of three returned cheques with the SIF employee's signatures on the back.

Smart lists at least three other payments made to SIF staffers - but not all were cheques. The most alarming is ten thousand dollars cash, which he claims to have paid to SIF's Executive Director Daniel Cano in a black plastic bag.

"There has been allegation of a colusion within the SIF. They said that your name has been called as well. We received some documents involving cheques that were paid off to different members/employees of SIF, as well letters that Mr. Smart explaining that he had been extorted. Do you know about that and what is your response?"

Daniel Cano, Executive Director, SIF
"I am aware of the allegations and its something very serious that has been alleged that will certainly impact people careers and the image of SIF."

"Your name was also called that you received a substantial amount of money as well."

Daniel Cano, Executive Director, SIF
"Yes, a number of allegations are being made and those needs to be investigated fully."

Geovanni Brackett, reporter
"Do you deny these allegations?"

Daniel Cano, Executive Director, SIF
"On my own personally, I am not speaking on behalf of SIF, yes I fully denied having anything from Mr. Smart."

In his email, Smart says he took the evidence of corruption, cheque stubs to Cano - who he says, misplaced them.

In March, Smart wrote back to the contractor general complaining that SIF was giving him the run around on a payment. The suggestion is that this was deliberate because seasoned observers know that whenever inducements are not paid, the red tape increases.

Smart pleads to the contractor general, quote "things like these are affecting my company drastically because I can't make my payments on time with my workers and it's affecting my credit facility."

And that brings us back to Friday's protest; his creditors are investors Emy Ramirez and Lyndon Bailey. They fronted money for Smart to get to this stage of the project. And now that SIF has cancelled the project and Smart can't pay - they're afraid they lose everything - that's why - on the advice of their attorney Audrey Matura Shepherd - they are holding unto the keys:

Geovanni Brackett, reporter
"You are reluctant to remove yourself here today from the premise. Any reason why?"

Emy Ramirez, Investor In K & G Contract
"I have all my investments here. All these things are pertaining to us, to me. My money is here."

Audrey Matura Shepherd, Attorney for E. Ramirez and L. Bailey
"Ms. Emy has come onboard on this contract on the 25th of June. Since then she has invested, she has bought materials, she has been paying labour, she has been pushing the project and no monies are forthcoming. So they ask me if there will be any handing over of this project today and I told them I didn't advise my clients to handover anything."

Daniel Cano, Executive Director, SIF
"Our purpose here this afternoon was to have the site handed over now that the contract has been terminated but we understand that the persons on site are not willing to hand it over. There is not much that we will do at this point."

Audrey Matura Shepherd, Attorney for E. Ramirez and L. Bailey
"She has spent over half a million dollars and they have not even paid her back one penny and they know that's it's her money that has been pumped into this project."

Donovan Bailey
"From all the evidence I have seen Mr. Smart was definitely working with somebody within SIF for him to have gone with so much money with this project that SIF had to be using our money to fix up their books."

And then, there are the Dangriga residents and the vendors,

On Friday their signs said it plain, UDP SIF corruption, Dangriga Suffers. And indeed, they still don't have their new market - and there's no resolution in sight - plus a possible lawsuit on the horizon:

Gilbert Swazo, Mayor Dangriga
"There is no telling how much longer that this specific project will be delayed - further inconveniencing Dangriga, causing further loss of revenue to the vendors and all other issues can be attributed as a result of this court case. That isn't the fault of Dangriga. Dangriga should not be punished for that. We want this project to be finished as early as possible without sacrificing any quality so we that stop the pain and suffering to our people - stop the loss of income to the vendors."

When ground was broken in May of 2012 - things seemed to be right on track, but now the allegations of corruption and the stalled project are the subject of high level deliberations:

Hon Santiago Santino Castillo Jr., Minister of State with Responsibility for Finance and Economic Development
"I can promise you that from where I sit and I am sure my Prime Minister and the Cabinet - if there is any sort of corruption, heads will roll. That I can promise you."

Of course these promises ring hollow for the residents of Griga because even if heads do roll, when will they get their long promised, long delayed market?

Since that interview with KREM radio earlier today, Minister Castillo has told us that the board has been authorized to make and act upon its own decisions without having to wait for a go-ahead from Cabinet.

As we noted, our sources say that decision is to terminate as many as four persons - for whom Smart could produce cheques that he paid them. He also made an allegation against Cano, but because there is no proof - we understand that Cano will be asked only to resign - since he was the boss when all this was happening. Smart maintains that he told Cano all that was happening and furnished him proof.

In the story, you heard Cano's denial but we were unable to reach anyone at SIF this afternoon as the phone just rang off the hook - which is perhaps understandable since the organization, was rocked to its core by today's firings. We did hear from a friend of Mike Hernandez - who got a 500 dollar cheque on December 23rd - that Smart offered it to him as a Christmas gift and he accepted. Hernandez as Public Relations Officer -told his friend he had no influence on project decisions - so it could not have been considered an inducement.

Channel 7

#473470 - 09/27/13 05:10 AM Re: Alleged Corruption in Construction of Market [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 57,785
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline

SIF Scandal Going To The Capital

Tomorrow all the attention will turn to Belmopan where there's going to be a House Meeting. And those who are discontented with the failed SIF project at the Dangriga Market are also going to be looking at the capital. In fact, they will be on the ground protesting. The mayor of Dangriga along with jilted investor Lyndon Bailey are going to protest against SIF - but in front of the House of Representatives. Yesterday in Dangriga they explained their frustration:..

Lyndon Bailey
"This sign is saying that "SIF we caught you red-handed, so it is the time for you to pay us." You were the one that got us into this mess. If you were forthcoming with the truth, the market would have been finish and we would have been out of here and the people of Dangriga would have enjoyed their new market."

"If you can see that so many of these people were removed from SIF - so there was a problem starting from SIF and then along with the contractor."

"Mrs. Emy and I got into this thing unknowing that funds were embezzled from SIF. It is time for SIF to stop play games and pay us our money that we can go and rest assure."

Geovanni Brackett, reporter
"People from Dangriga have sign on to get a permit to protest this Friday. Are you in support of that?"

Lyndon Bailey
"Oh yes, like what I said in the TV news that I will be fighting for my money and if the fight continue I will be sleeping at SIF office door next week for a whole night or maybe a week. It's not over until we get our money then the fight will be over."

Gilbert Swazo, Mayor Dangriga
"The people are the ones who are saying to me that they are not happy with the termination of their market and we need to continue to demonstrate to the government, to SIF that this is something that we won't stand for because we want our market to be completed as early as possible."

"The first instance we were promise 31st of July then 31st of October. We firmly believe that we were well on the way for the project to have been completed on the 31st of July based on the progress that was made. When they terminated that project our people continue to demonstrate that they are not pleased with such a decision. They are the ones who came to the Council - to me."

"As I step out of the gate earlier, there are a couple of people who told me that they were not happy with what has happened and they are here to support me and they will continue to support the efforts of me. They are saying that they want to go to Belmopan this Friday."

Of course, we'll have full coverage for all the action form Belmopan tomorrow.

Channel 7

#473494 - 09/27/13 07:12 AM Re: Alleged Corruption in Construction of Market [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,434
Katie Valk Offline
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Belize based travel specialist
#473551 - 09/28/13 05:23 AM Re: Alleged Corruption in Construction of Market [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 57,785
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline

Dangriga Mayor, Cola, Contractors Protest SIF

And while that's what was happening in the house - outside there was a protest. It was a mixed affair with three different interests coming together to voice their condemnation of government actions. And, they voiced it very loudly - not quite loud enough to be heard in the chamber, but as Jules Vasquez found out, it was not for want of trying:..

Jules Vasquez reporting
Today's crowd was by no means overwhelming - probably less than a hundred - but what they lacked in numbers - the made up for in volume.

Geovanni Brackett, President - COLA
"Our people have been put aside, have been made to shame but today is the day that the revolution has started. So we say "charge Penner now." [Crowd chanting: charge Penner now]."

It was a mixed bag of issues - COLA wanted to charge Elvin Penner, The investors in Kennard Smart's project want their hundreds of thousands back while the PUP Mayor from Dangriga brought his drums - he wanted them to finish his market:

Mayor Gilbert Swazo Sr., Mayor Dangriga
"We want our market. When [Crowd chanting: now]."

"Santi - resign [Crowd chanting: resign]."

"We have been silent for too long, so we are demonstrating just like anybody else that we are frustrated and tired of all the wrongness that have been perpetrated on our people who have fulfilled all their obligations."

Jules Vasquez
"Sir, SIF is saying that they have to put in out to tender and they have their process and they have to ensure transparency - all these things take time. Is that a reasonable response for you?"

Mayor Gilbert Swazo Sr., Mayor Dangriga
"If they were talking about transparency, if they were transparent, out market would have been completed by the 31st of July."

Jules Vasquez
"Sir, the Prime Minister recently spoke about all these infrastructure investments that the government plans to make in his Independence speech, but that has to kind of stick in your throat because...."

Mayor Gilbert Swazo Sr., Mayor Dangriga
"Very much so Jules. If you notice, everything that the Prime Minister indicates is surrounded in Belize City - City centric. He is indicating to the entire nation of Belize that Belize City is Belize country. He is only concern about Belize City. What happen to the South?"

"The Prime Minister has it in his power to decide and take decisive action to do whatever he will. It is increment on the Prime Minister to stop the suffering in Dangriga and then divert that money to complete at the first instance the market of Dangriga."

"Our purview remains to be that we want our market to finish and to finish as early as possible. There was the opportunity for the market to have finished the 31st of October as stipulated by SIF. That is not in Dangriga in any way or form. We want our market now!"

Mayor Gilbert Swazo Sr., Mayor Dangriga
"When do we want our market? [Crowd chanting: now]."

"SIF is a [Crowd chanting: fraud]."

"It is time for the South to rise and this is the beginning of that journey."

Jules Vasquez
"It would be argued that if it is indeed time for the South to rise - you need a bigger crowd than this. Considering it's such a well know issue - this is a fairly small crowd. I have to worry about the crowd sir."

Mayor Gilbert Swazo Sr., Mayor Dangriga
"The crowd in my view is not an issue. The first step always starts small and then when you start getting use to the struggle and the pace and you start speeding it up. That in my opinion is not worthy. That is a not an issue."

Money is the issue for Lyndon Bailey and Emy Ramirez.

Lyndon Bailey, Investor, K and G Construction
"We want our money because it was a big corruption at SIF that caused us to be in this problem that we are in right now and I need my money."

Jules Vasquez
"Then sir, without being unkind - you shouldn't have invested in what would be called "junk bonds" - high risk - high yield. It was high risk."

Lyndon Bailey, Investor, K and G Construction
"We thought that SIF was a well-organized and reputable firm working for the Government."

Jules Vasquez
"You didn't invest in SIF. You invested in Smart."

Lyndon Bailey, Investor, K and G Construction
"No, the project was run by SIF."

Jules Vasquez
"You don't have a contract with SIF."

Lyndon Bailey, Investor, K and G Construction
"I was a part of that contract under the part that says "sub-contractor could be brought in.""

Jules Vasquez
"We lived in a world of paper sir. You didn't have any paper contract with SIF."

Lyndon Bailey, Investor, K and G Construction
"I have a paper because I have a signed document from SIF recognizing me as the "sub-contractor" on that site."

And while Bailey had the volume pumped way up - COLA was there for pure rage - not politics they say.

Geovanni Brackett, President - COLA
"We need to come and support the people of Dangriga. We don't care about the political issue. We are not here to support a PUP Mayor. We are here to support the people of Dangriga that needs their market like from yesterday, like last year."

"The second thing why we are here is because there is a mirage of allegations of corruption within the government. It doesn't just start with the immigration scandal, it isn't just the issue with Castro, it goes way back with the Noh Mul, the KHMH issue."

"We brought in 135 people to come here to lodge our complaint on the record because the time for press release and press conferences is gone. The time for people movement is now."

Aaron Humes, reporter
"Earlier you were talking about charging Elvin Penner with regard to his part in that passport scandal with the South Korean. What crime has he committed?"

Jihad McLaren, COLA
"Passport sale is illegal because it doesn't exists any more. Automatically that is a crime. It is a crime and a betrayal."

Aaron Humes, reporter
"You are making a false statement but that's hardly a matter for jail time."

Jihad McLaren, COLA
"It's beyond that. It's a charge that goes beyond that."

Aaron Humes, reporter
"Procedure was not followed but I am asking specifically, what crime did the Minister commit?"

Rufus X
"Subverting our country's sovereignty - that's treason."

Geovanni Brackett, President - COLA
"Aaron Humes, if you were the one that sign that thing, you would be long gone in jail and we would be here fighting for you."

"The point is that the allegations of corruption has come tumbling down on this government and somebody needs to go on record and to say that corruption should not be tolerated."

Jules Vasquez
"Are you all lobbying for a change of government sir?"

Geovanni Brackett, President - COLA
"Sir, I am not lobbying for a change of government because sometimes we change one in and one out but what we are lobbying for is true change. We want transparency and accountability, not the appearance of it."

Today, though the appearance was what the effort needed - it didn't lack in fire or rhetoric but in numbers - to which we'll point the PUP, mass party and all was no help at all - even to their own PUP Mayor.

The protesters calmly dispersed just before midday.

Channel 7

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