Monday, March 10, 2014

“i  have been elected by the people to serve them under the UDP and I will continue to serve my area to the best of my ability.” That was disgraced former immigration Minister Elvin Penner to Jules Vasquez of Channel 7 on Thursday, September 19th, 2013. Six months later, it seems that Penner has had to bail on that commitment.

On that day, a release from the Office of Prime Minister Dean Barrow informed the nation that Penner had been sacked because he (Penner) “did not discharge his responsibilities with either the due judgement and balance, or the scrupulous regard for appearances which the Prime Minister demands of all his Ministers.”

Whose appearance Penner failed to be scrupulous about? That was jailed South Korean, Won Hong Kim who was detained in a Taiwanese prison for violating the immigration laws of that island nation. He had allegedly illegally entered Taiwan in an effort to avoid embezzlement charges in his native, South Korea. Taiwan and South Korea do not have an extradition treaty therefore Kim may have calculated that if he entered Taiwan, he could escape facing charges on a multi-million dollar embezzlement charge in his country.

Since September 19th, 2013, this case has gone from the ridiculous to the sublime with the UDP blowing hot and cold on what to do with Penner and retain office. First appearing as though he had zero tolerance for corruption, PM Barrow fired Penner and then later tried to cover for him or rather, tried to save his vulnerable government that only holds two seats more than the opposition, PUP.

“In a related development,” the September 19, 2013 release said, “the Office of the Prime Minister also announces that the Immigration Ministry, together with the Ministry of the Public Service, has launched an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the issue of a Belize passport to a South Korean national. The Immigration Ministry will make a statement in the next day or so as to the results of that investigation.” Well, it seems some investigation happened as Penner has been kept at bay, immigration officers have been threatened to be fired, they were later suspended, Penner was eventually stripped of some ministerial perks, namely his vehicle, PUP pursued a recall that failed and then the process came to a lull…or so the government thought.

Things reheated in early February when the People’s United Party sent out a release stating that the party will apply to the Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to force Commissioner of Police Whylie to arrest Penner. Whylie was given seven days within which he should have acted but the commissioner who has a penchant for being reticent, ignored the significance of the PUP’s expressed intent. When the seven days expired and Whylie hadn’t budged, the PUP went to court.

On Wednesday, February 19th, five months to the date when Penner was booted from cabinet for lack of “scrupulous regard for appearances”, the PUP filed application for a writ of mandamus. One week later on Wednesday, February 26, 2014, the court granted a hearing providing that the Opposition filed proper documents by 4:00 p.m. that day and that they were served by 4:00 p.m. the following day. A tight squeeze for the PUP but they accomplished the feat and on Friday, February 28th, the CJ heard the matter. He rendered his decision on Monday, March 1st, 2014.

Nigel Hawke appeared for the Commissioner and told the court that Compol has the discretion which alleged crime to investigate and when. The audacity of the attorney’s assertion must have pissed off the CJ. While rendering his decision on Monday, March 1st, Chief Justice Benjamin lambasted Commissioner Whylie telling him that his decision not to investigate as was exposed in a leaked memo from the DPP was “irrational, illegal and unlawful.” With that Compol Whylie was ordered off his laurels to investigate and pick up Penner.

Hard pressed for time, Whylie, it seems hit the ground running. NBZLive has gathered that over 16 statements were recorded by police, including statements from Minister Godwin Hulse, the CEO and the Director of Immigration.

Penner and his alleged accomplice Justice of the Peace (JP) could not be located for questioning and best reports are that they skipped townImage

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. Sources inside say that a complaint will be filed in Belmopan Magistrate Court on Tuesday since Monday is a bank and public holiday in Belize.

Prime Minister Barrow who has been walking on hot coal since this matter broke in September last year has not been questioned. The missing and key piece of evidence, the Belizean passport issued to “Citizen Kim” is speculated to still be with Ambassador Cherie Nisbet in Taiwan.

Another official source has confirmed meeting “Citizen Kim’s” emissary who came to Belize bearing hundreds of thousands of United States of America dollars which was allegedly handed to Penner during a clandestine meeting at the Fort George Hotel. Emissary is described as a very dapper Asian man in his late forties or early fifties. He exuded a certain aura that he wasn’t ordinary folk, the second source confirmed. “Handsome and Sexy” the source impressed.

According to the first source, the emissary flew to Belize via Cancun, Mexico. Another source confirmed the landing of a private jet which brought the emissary, said to be “Citizen Kim’s” aide and the meetings with prominent members of the Asian community in Belize who are closely connected to the UDP. One person the aide allegedly met with is prominent figure in the Belizean Asian community known as “Tim”. Not much is known of this “Tim” but he is described as commanding significant authority in the Asian community in Belize.

It is left to be seen how this investigation concludes since the so called investigation by the Ministry of Immigration, headed by Godwin Hulse has not bothered to check flight records at the Belize Airport Authority which is headed by also disgraced and booted minister of state, the incorrigible Edmund Castro. Castro was on a junket to Taiwan along with former Deputy Mayor of Belize City, Eric Chang and Mayor of Belize City Darrel Bradley. It is believed that the passport was couriered on that trip which left Belize late August or early September.

No one in the media has bothered to ask Mayor Darrel Bradley who has given several interviews regarding his prodigal former deputy, what exactly was the purpose of the trip to Taiwan. We can only remain hopeful that the investigation or its proponents, the PUP will press for a thorough investigation.