Posted By: Marty
Former prime minister charged with Theft in Belmop - 11/14/08 03:05 PM
DPP Confirms Former Prime Minister Said Musa Will Be Arrested
It’s been rumoured since February, but now, best reports say that within the next few days - former Prime Minister Said Musa will be arrested and charged criminally for diverting the $20 million in Venezuelan grant funds to the Belize Bank to pay the Universal Hospital debt. This afternoon Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryl Lynn Branker Taitt confirmed the report which was the headline story in today’s Guardian Newspaper.
She declined an on-camera interview and wouldn’t go into details, but Branker-Taitt told 7NEWS that, “within the next few days the former Prime Minister and other persons will be charged for the diversion of the money from Venezuela." She wouldn’t say what will be the charges and who the other persons are. She did however say those “other persons” could include “other ministers” in Musa’s Cabinet.
DPP Branker-Taitt says more charges will follow for other instances of alleged wrongdoing in the Musa administration, but again declined to give details. Branker-Taitt says it is improper for her to comment on an ongoing investigation and that she’s simply responding to the report in today’s Guardian Newspaper.
But contrary to that report, she stressed that the charges are not the result of a fulfilment of any promise by the Barrow administration to arrest Said Musa. She says it was an independent decision made by her office after interviews and investigation.
You may remember the $20 million has been returned to the Government of Belize – though its ownership is still being disputed in an Arbitral Council in London and the high courts here in Belize. The Belize Bank returned the money basically after it was forced to do so by a directive of the Central Bank and with its President Phil Johnson under threat of arrest.
Posted By: Moby
Re: Former prime minister charged with Theft in Be - 11/14/08 04:20 PM
That would be a nice beginning - though a busload of crooks on the way to Hattieville would be better. Said could get a seat there right between Ralphie and Mickey.
Posted By: Moby
Re: Former prime minister charged with Theft in Be - 11/14/08 04:34 PM
I give you a better one - they'll promise government cheese to everyone and get reelected in the next cycle
Posted By: RathaBnBelize
Re: Former prime minister charged with Theft in Be - 11/15/08 04:31 AM
At most..a slap on the wrist and a little fine but definetely no long term occupancy in a jail cell.
Posted By: Marty
Re: Former prime minister charged with Theft in Be - 11/15/08 04:12 PM
Former Prime Minister Musa Dodges House Meeting
The House of Representatives met today in Belmopan. It was a mostly uneventful sitting, but the news tonight isn’t about who was there, it is about who wasn’t. And that is former Prime Minister and the Area Representative for Fort George, Hon. Said Musa. As we told you last night, his arrest is believed to be imminent. The Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryl Lynn Branker-Taitt confirmed to us yesterday that Musa and “other persons” will be charged for illegally diverting funds from Venezuela to the Belize Bank to pay the Universal Hospital debt. The DPP told us that Musa will be charged within the next few days. That day wasn’t today and despite the immunity that going to a House meeting affords him, Musa didn’t show up for today’s sitting.
His Party Leader Johnny Briceno, however, was and we asked him about the pending arrest of his former leader.
Hon. Johnny Briceno, PUP Leader
“We are concerned because we have been hearing this, almost like football being played, a political football over the months. But as we’ve always said - us from our side of this House - we have to ensure that all citizens are tried equally and fairly and that everyone should be deemed innocent until proven guilty.”
So you’ll stand behind Mr. Musa?
Hon. Johnny Briceno,
“We will ensure that Mr. Musa gets a fair hearing.”
Any comments on the pending arrest of the former Prime Minister?
Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
“Not really. I gather that the DPP has made some kind of informal statement. I have not spoken to her and so I only know what the media is saying.”
Did you play any role in the investigation, in terms of giving a statement?
Hon. Dean Barrow,
“Yes I did give a statement.”
Can you tell us what you said?
Hon. Dean Barrow,
“I gave a statement concerning what I know of the proceedings. I don’t think I can go beyond that.”
And while Said Musa wasn’t there, his supporters were. About 20 persons from the Majestic Alley area showed up at the National Assembly building.
In an item of minor note, a former head of state that the former Prime Minister Said Musa bestowed with the Order of Belize, ex Taiwanese President Chen Shui-Bian, was arrested this week on charges of corruption. He has gone on a hunger strike protesting his detention. President Chen visited Belize in September of 2004.
Posted By: Peter Jones
Re: Former prime minister charged with Theft in Be - 11/18/08 11:31 PM
Did anyone else see the pink elephant flying over San Pedro this morning?
Posted By: Marty
Former prime minister charged with Theft in Belmop - 12/05/08 02:47 PM
Former prime minister charged with Theft in Belmopan …
Ending months of speculation of his arrest, this morning former Prime Minister Said Musa was brought before the courts to face charges of Theft in relation to US$10 million gifted by the government of Venezuela late last year when Musa was head of government. When Musa returned to the nation’s capital today, his successor, the current Prime Minister, was nowhere in sight. Musa handed himself in to Belmopan Police and was first processed at the station and then taken to the Magistrates’ Court under heavy protection and with a crowd of supporters on the sidelines. He left the court after meeting bail of a whopping $100,000. News Five’s Marion Ali was in Belmopan this morning for the historic event.
Marion Ali, Reporting
The Belmopan Police Station had so many police officers barricading its entrance this morning that if you didn’t know better, you’d think the President of a first world country was on an official visit. But such was not the case. Today was the first time in Belize’s history that a former Prime Minister was criminally charged. In this instance, former Prime Minister, Said Musa is facing a single charge of Theft. And so when the Police were finished with him at the police station and handed him his charge sheet, Musa was escorted under heavy police guard to the Magistrates’ Court.
A group of about a hundred staunch P.U.P. supporters who had travelled mainly from Belize City and Corozal Town, were already gathered outside. And they made their presence known with placards and cheers as Musa arrived at the courthouse.
But the lower flat of the courthouse where the case was supposed to be heard did not have enough space to accommodate the 8-member legal team, P.U.P stalwarts, and the many reporters who were there to cover the event.
So Musa was then escorted to the upper flat where he flashed a wave to his supporters just before walking inside to face his charge.
Magistrate Albert Hoare read him a single charge of Theft, which is in connection with $10 million in December of 2007 gifted to Belize by the Government of Venezuela and earmarked for housing projects. The funds were directed to the Belize Bank as a loan payment for the now defunct Universal Health Services.
Musa’s heavy weight legal team, led by his law partner Senior Counsel Edwin Flowers, also includes political colleagues, Francis Fonseca, Anthony Sylvestre Junior, and son Karim Musa, former Minister in the past Musa Administration Lisa Shoman, Kevin Flowers and Arthur Saldivar. Because the matter is indictable, no plea was taken from Musa and Magistrate Hoare granted him bail of $100,000 and adjourned the case until January 9th, 2009.
Upon exiting the courthouse, Musa repeated that he was innocent and lashed out at the Government of the day.
Said Musa, Charged with Theft
“I am innocent of this charge of this charge and of any charges that they threaten to bring against me. I acted in good faith always when I secured the grants from Venezuela for the benefit of the Belizean people. What we have here happening is this Government, this regime is trying to harass me, trying to shame me, but in fact 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.”
Anthony Sylvestre Junior, Attorney, Musa’s legal team
“The information of the imminent charge did appear on the front page of the Government’s newspaper, so that, I think, speaks volumes and I will leave it at that.”
Lisa Shoman, Attorney, Musa’s Legal Team
“Which would be today even before, I might add, it was read out to the person who was being charged, so you ask yourself then what kind of justice there is when even before you are charged it is already appearing in a sector of the media.”
But despite everything, Musa was confident that he will be victorious and criticised Government for using him as a distraction from the problems affecting the country.
“I am not worried about it. They know that they will not succeed with this ridiculous charge against me. 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 their jobs. They want to distract the people from the taxes that they are raising, from the economy that is falling down. They want to distract the people from the raging crime and violence in our country and they are trying to distract the people from all the problems; economic and social problems that the country is going through. But the people are awake and I’m sure they will not be fooled by this attempt to divert and to distract their attention from the serious problems that are affecting our country.”
After his supporters bade him farewell, two of Musa’s attorneys, Anthony Sylvestre Junior and Lisa Shoman fielded questions from reporters.
Anthony Sylvestre Junior
“What we will say at this juncture in terms of what the legal definition of what Theft is we don’t think what has been ventilated in the public domain would not accord with that definition of Theft.”
“Remember that this is a criminal case and like in any other criminal case it is not for the defendant to prove anything. It’s for the state to prove their case against Mr. Musa and so the issue of disclosure is going to be very important. It is the D.P.P’s duty and responsibility to make out the case and according to the case that is made out the, disclosure that is obtained, the proof and evidence that they present, that is how the defence will unfold.”
As far as the Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryl-Lynn Branker-Taitt is concerned, the fact that she is going up against a strong legal team does not trouble her.
Cheryl-Lynn Branker-Taitt, D.P.P.
“I would not have been intimidated if the entire bar was on the other side.”
Jules Vasquez, Channel 7
“You will bring additional charges as well? It will be more than just the charge of Theft?”
“In relation to this particular issue, no, but in relation to the entire U.H.S matter, yes, other charges will be laid.”
As far as former Attorney General, Francis Fonseca is concerned, Taitt could not immediately say whether any charges will be laid against him. Meanwhile, former Minister of government under the Musa regime, Ralph Fonseca, will face a similar charge of Theft when he appears in the Belmopan Court tomorrow. Reporting for News Five, Marion Ali.
P.U.P leader Johnny Briceño was not present as he was leaving the country today for Houston. But Musa did have other current and former P.U.P Area Representatives by his side today. And this afternoon the P.U.P. Fort George committee came out in solidarity with the area representative saying that the arrest was political persecution at its worst and a way of distracting the country from the incompetence of the U.D.P. administration.
… But it’s not his first time in court
This is not the first time that Said Musa has been charged criminally while in opposition. Musa faced the music before under a U.D.P regime, and came out victorious.
This was the scene on the streets leading to Independence Hall on Queen Street back on November 25th, 1993 when Musa, then as P.U.P party chairman, was charged with Bribery. The charge was dismissed by Magistrates’ Court.
David Reid, Channel 5 (November 25th, 1993)
“You’re gonna be arrested again. What are you going to do then?”
Said Musa, P.U.P. Chairman (November 25th, 1993)
“Well, we have to go through the legal process. I know that this is political persecution and we have to go through it for the next 5 years.”
“And how is this affecting you personally? How do you feel?”
“I’m holding up strong, I think.”
In another instance in January 1998, Musa, then as Opposition Leader, was accused, tried, and found guilty of Contempt of the House of Representatives, also under the U.D.P. regime.
Belize Bank: It acted in good faith to settle U.H.S. debt
The reaction to Musa’s arrest and arraignment was swift from the Belize Bank which says in a release that whether or not there is any substance to the charge is now a matter for the courts.
According to the bank, it was not a party to the discussions between Belize and Venezuela and it did not have knowledge of what was agreed between the two. The bank says it acted in good faith to settle the U.H.S. debt and advanced substantial sums to the hospital on the basis of Government’s assurances and is entitled to repayment of those sums. In reaching a settlement, it discharged the U.H.S. debt and withdrew litigation proceedings against the Government and agreed to forgo millions of dollars so that the hospital can continue under new ownership.
The release also says that the bank has been wrongly forced by the Central Bank, acting at the behest of the Barrow administration, to pay $10 million to the Government and that by holding on to the monies, the new Government has sought to avoid the obligations of the past administration. According to the Bank, the Government has used the tools of the state to obtain free money. And to drive home the point, the Belize Bank says it expects to recover the money in full in due course.
Instead of treasure, Polish divers find human remains
Police have confirmed to News Five that human remains were found yesterday in the Blue Hole at the Lighthouse Reef formation. Efforts to bring the body to surface are set for tomorrow.
Polish divers on vacation in Belize, on a tour with Aqua Dives of San Pedro, reportedly discovered skeletal remains. According to the report, the sighting was made after 7:00 last night in waters 300 meters deep within the Blue Hole.
According to an unconfirmed report, the remains were found with the suit, oxygen tank and camera still intact.
This find is linked to an incident back on August 5th of 2001 when Dr. Ruben Delgado, a 43-year-old cardiologist of Miami, failed to resurface from a dive into the Blue Hole. Many search efforts were made to find Delgado’s body, but all were futile.
On Friday an expedition will be sent to retrieve the remains and diving equipment.
Posted By: Short
Re: Former prime minister charged with Theft in Be - 12/05/08 03:26 PM
Posted By: Marty
Musa charged with US$10m theft - 12/06/08 05:01 PM
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.
Posted By: Marty
FORMER MINISTER RALPH FONSECA CHARGED WITH THEFT - 12/06/08 05:05 PM
FORMER MINISTER RALPH FONSECA CHARGED WITH THEFT
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.
Posted By: Short
Re: FORMER MINISTER RALPH FONSECA CHARGED WITH THEFT - 03/05/09 04:14 AM
Well, Ralph is off the hook, sort of as predicted by Godfrey Smith in his article: " The Juice and Biscuits Trial
Ralph Fonseca Vindicated in Magistrate's Court
He was accused of the theft of $20 million in public funds, but today Ralph Fonseca walked out of Belmopan Magistrate’s Court clear of that charge. It was the conclusion of the preliminary inquiry into the charge where Magistrate Earl Jones had to determine if there was enough evidence to take the matter to the Supreme Court. In a very brief judgement issued this morning, Earl Jones found that there was not sufficient evidence in the documents presented to the court to establish a prima facie case against Fonseca. With that, the case against him was discharged. And so, unlike his former Prime Minister Said Musa, Ralph Fonseca will not stand trial in the Supreme Court. Fonseca was relieved when he left the courtroom, but still had a few jabs for his opponents.
Ralph Fonseca, Cleared of Theft Charge“Well it has to feel good. First of all I want to thank all the people that called and text and emailed and expressed their support for me I would like to offer them something. And those that didn’t, I’m busy. I will continue to pray for my enemies. From within and without, I think the people of Belize know what this case was all about and I am glad that justice has been served. I hope that our previous Prime Minister also gets cleared as quickly as is possible. I am also happy that the people that are involved with the case are now relieved of this because I can imagine the pressure that they were under and I thank the media in general for being fairly balanced as it relates to this, even if uncharacteristically so Jules. Thank you very much.” http://www.7newsbelize.com/sstory.php?nid=13499
Posted By: Short
Re: Former prime minister charged with Theft in Be - 06/10/09 02:46 AM
There we go: Musa is freed
of theft charge and while the courthouse took on the air of a political carnaval
, with applause and a parade of (mostly old guard) PUP politicians, the Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryl Lynn Branker Taitt announced she plans to appeal
the Chief Justice’s decision.