General — 13 May 2017 — by Micah Goodin
Penner approved nationality certificate

Turkish national who apparently never set foot in Belize

BELMOPAN, Cayo District, Wed. May 10, 2017–Former Minister of State in the Ministry of Immigration, Elvin Penner, was first accused of wrongdoing in September 2013 in connection with the “Citizen Kim” (Won Hong Kim) scandal that led to the eventual suspension of his political career.

Kim, a jailed South Korean criminal, had never set foot in Belize, but was still issued a Belizean nationality certificate and passport.

While public outcry against Penner was deafening, the month before, he was accused of committing fraud in a similar fashion in another case, according to the Auditor General’s Special Audit of the Immigration Department.

Penner allegedly backdated a nationality certificate for another man who, too, according to all indications, never set a foot in Belize.

The audit revealed that Penner had signed a nationality certificate for Turkish national Yakut Sut. Although he dated it sometime in June of 2013, a closer inspection of that certificate revealed that the serial number attached to it did not correlate with the serial numbers for June, but instead, had positively correlated with the serial numbers for the month of August.

The auditors viewed this as a clear indication that Penner had backdated his signature and fraudulently issued this nationality certificate.

At today’s Senate hearing, Penner vehemently denied backdating any official document. Instead, he suggested that, “perhaps the files were not used in sequence.”

The Senate Select Committee then questioned Penner about the legitimacy of Sut’s nationality certificate, because there was no record that he paid the application fee for it.

There was no record that Sut was interviewed, which is an integral part of the nationality process and lastly, there was no record that he attended the swearing-in ceremony held for naturalized Belizeans.

However, Penner created more doubts, leaving many to believe that Sut simply did not qualify for the nationality certificate because he never set foot in Belize.

Penner said, during the Senate inquiry, that he had assumed that Sut had visited Belize, but strangely, they never met here and he had no recollection of Sut’s permanent address in Belize. Penner claimed that they only spoke over the phone or via email after they had met in Germany, and then Los Angeles.

According to Penner, he had initially met Sut in Los Angeles via a mutual friend he remembers only as “Mr. Levan.”

Later in his testimony, Penner claimed that they had first met in Germany.

According to Penner, during their first meeting, Sut suddenly expressed interest in living and investing in Belize.

However, Penner could not specify the nature of those investments, and neither could he specify the content of Sut’s application file.

Yet, Penner told the committee that he was the one who approved and signed off on Sut’s nationality certificate and recommended him for a passport.

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