Headline — 08 October 2013 — by Kareem Clarke
FIU begins investigations into “Penner’s Passport Scandal”

Today, attorney Arthur Saldivar, who has said that he is “acting alone,” apart from his party, the People’s United Party, has called for the shutting down of the Immigration Department after allegedly rescuing 150 immigration documents belonging to Asians and Middle East citizens, reportedly signed by fired Minister of State Elvin Penner. But Penner’s troubles, and the troubles of his minister, Hon. Godwin Hulse, and Prime Minister Barrow, who has publicly supported him against criminal charges, saying that he already has been “properly punished” by being forced to resign from Cabinet, seem to be just beginning.

Apart from the effort by the Opposition PUP to have Penner recalled from his seat, the Cayo North East constituency, and a request to the police by KREM Radio talk show Evan “Mose” Hyde to have Penner investigated criminally, the director of the powerful Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), attorney Marilyn Williams, has revealed that her unit has already begun investigating the passport scandal, and reports that about US$120,000 may have passed hands illegally.

The scandal reared its ugly head 18 days ago after it was announced that Hon. Penner was being directed by Barrow to resign from Cabinet as Minister of State with responsibility for Immigration.

So far, the Immigration Ministry, under its substantive Minister Senator Godwin Hulse, has been investigating the matter for the last three weeks, under sustained public pressure. On September 23, it was announced that three officers in the passport section of the Immigration Department had been recommended for suspension, and we are reliably informed that the investigation is to conclude by Wednesday, October 9, when the suspension period ends.

Consequently, there has been growing public outrage in the absence of a police investigation into the bizarre circumstances surrounding the scandal, since several citizens are convinced that there was criminal wrongdoing.

For his part, Police Commissioner Allen Whylie told KREM News today, Monday, that he had been out of the country and was unaware of the criminal complaint filed by Mose Hyde, or any other developments with regards to the issue, and therefore he could not comment on whether there would be an investigation launched by the Belize Police Department.

While it may be a deliberate case of “foot-dragging” on the part of the police, an investigation by the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) into the passport scandal has to be taken seriously.

According to FIU Director Marilyn Williams, the FIU, based on the laws under which they are mandated, has already started the process as an investigation. However, she said that she was not in a position to give any details of those investigations, since the type of investigations that they do are not subject to public discussion, but she did confirm that the investigations were launched a week ago.

And if that is not enough, it is reported that the Director of Public Prosecutions is of the opinion that despite the police’s lackadaisical attitude towards the case, there is enough evidence for the investigations into the case to begin.

Last week, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Cheryl-Lynn Vidal, whose office does not have the authority to itself initiate an investigation, told KREM News that she is of the view that sufficient indicators of possible wrongdoing have emerged to warrant an investigation, and she trusts that the appropriate authority will proceed to do just that, and thereafter, forward a file for the consideration of the Office of the DPP, which is constitutionally empowered to make a decision as to the way forward.

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