EXPOSED: Covering up the Penner Incident

So late last year I noted Why nothing may happen with the UDP Immigration Scandal, and we got proof of it from Channel 5 News. It seems that this Government is willing to go to any lengths to cover up their criminal activity. How much longer will Belize keep tolerating this kind of behavior?

It is almost six months since former Minister of State with responsibility for Immigration Elvin Penner was removed from Cabinet for his role in the illegal issuance of a passport to South Korean fugitive sitting in a Taiwanese jail. There have been allegations of multiple investigations, but a scarcity of any information. And what information there has been is devoid of any mention of Penner. Tonight, there is explosive new evidence which gives insight into the protection afforded to the disgraced Minister of State. That evidence, a confidential memo from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, was leaked to News Five late today. From our perspective, it gives credibility to speculation about a widespread cover up of what really happened in the Immigration Department. Mike Rudon has that story.

News Five has received a leaked copy of this memo, dated February twentieth, from Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryl Lynn-Vidal to the head of the National Crimes Investigation Branch. The memo is, quite frankly, damning, but it sheds valuable insight on what has seemed to be absolute protection of former Minister of State Elvin Penner, and perhaps other high-ranking U.D.P. politicians.

In the memo the D.P.P. is responding to a request by the Police for her perusal and advice on the investigation into the Immigration Department. The tone is set early, when the D.P.P. states that she has perused the files, but states, “I am in an utter quandary on what advice I can possibly render.”

The D.P.P. notes that the investigation seems to have been centered on how immigration files were leaked from the Department of Immigration, rather than around the actual contents of the files. That, of course, comes as no surprise to anybody who has been following the so-called Police investigation.

In fact, says the D.P.P., none of the files provided by Mr. Saldivar have even been included, which means that she has not been privy to them. From her next comments, it is clear that the holding back of those files was deliberate, rather than an oversight.

In what is an astonishing and disturbing disclosure, the D.P.P. refers to a statement by the investigating officer, ASP Julio Valdez. Valdez wrote, “after the documents were examined, it was observed that several nationalities were approved by Immigration to individuals without meeting the criteria for approval, yet they were processed and approved.”

To borrow the PM’s words, that is most certainly a smoking gun, but what follows next is the bullet itself. ASP Valdez continues to state that, “after follow up was done on this and questions asked about these discrepancies, this line of the investigation did not continue, due to instructions, no other follow was made. It remained as is.”

From the tone of the memo, the D.P.P. was not amused, and asks immediately for the source of those instructions. She states that, quote – “the information on the file suggests that offences may have been committed at the Immigration Department. I am unable to advise further since no files have been forwarded and the investigation in relation to that issue at least, according to the Officer’s own words, was halted,” end quote.

The D.P.P. ends by asking the N.C.I.B. to indicate whether the Belize Police Department will proceed with an investigation to determine whether anyone can be charged for the irregularities identified by Valdez. She also asks that the files be forwarded to her for a proper assessment. Mike Rudon for News Five.

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