Politics — 14 February 2014 — by Rowland A. Parks

On Monday, the law firm of Musa and Balderamos, acting on behalf of the Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Francis Fonseca, wrote Commissioner of Police Allen Whylie a detailed letter, informing him that if he did not act against disgraced former Minister of State Elvin Penner and charge him in connection with the “Penner Passport Scandal,” the law firm was instructed to take the matter to the Supreme Court to ask for a writ of mandamus, in which the court would instruct the Commissioner to criminally charge Penner.

The Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) says there is enough evidence against Penner to warrant criminal prosecution for the Won Hong Kim passport scandal that cost him his Cabinet seat.

Amandala tried to get comment from the Commissioner of Police on Monday, with no success, and today, Thursday, we tried again, and again, with no success.

We have tried speaking with Prime Minister Dean Barrow, but again, with no success.

Citing violations of the Belize Passport Act, the Belize Nationality Act and the Electronic Evidence Act, the letter, signed by Senior Counsel Edwin Flowers, urged Commissioner Whylie to conclude the police’s investigation and bring criminal charges against Hon. Elvin Penner, the Cayo North East area representative.

If he fails to act within a week’s time from the date of the letter, the PUP says it will take the matter to the Supreme Court, where it will seek a court judgment via a writ of mandamus.

The PUP’s letter to Whylie was buttressed by remarks the Party’s legal advisor, attorney Anthony Sylvestre, made to reporters at a press briefing on Tuesday.

Sylvestre told reporters that most Belizeans are outraged at the Penner passport scandal and how the government has handled the matter.

“We are continually being told that ‘investigation continues,’ but the general public has not seen the light of day, with respect to this investigation”, Sylvestre said.

He added, “The Leader of the Opposition has a constitutional duty to ensure that the rule of law is applied to all, without regard to the status of an individual.”

Asked how the PUP has reached the conclusion that a prima facie case exists against Penner, Sylvestre said that several public pronouncements and declarations have been made by no less than the Prime Minister and the Minister of Immigration, who, by virtue of their office would have had firsthand knowledge.

Prime Minister Barrow, on September 27, 2013, explained in some detail, Mr. Penner’s involvement. He said that Penner admitted to signing the nationality certificate, on September 9, but somehow, it was mysteriously backdated, Sylvestre pointed out.

Minister of Immigration Godwin Hulse, in an interview on October 2, explained that the Immigration Department had received information from the Taiwanese authorities that citizen Kim would have been in prison at the time the passport and the nationality application would have been signed, Sylvestre said.

Penner had sent out an email, which he confirmed was sent by him, admitting to going to the Immigration office with an individual he thought was Kim.

In his emailed statement on September 27, 2013, Penner said: “Wanting to help a business person I made sure that everything was in order on the application form and personally went with him to the passport office to see to it that he would get proper attention and would get his passport the same day. Now having seen the picture who is said to be Won Hong Kim on the news, who has been detained in Taiwan for some time now, it has become clear to me that the person for whom I signed the application for could never have been Mr. Won Hong Kim. I can only assume that he was impersonating Mr. Won Hong Kim.”

Sylvestre said that Penner’s admission revealed that he committed acts that were an offense under the Passport Act, which says that a person who:

“(h) without having actual knowledge of the applicant for a passport, makes declaration verifying the declaration of such applicant, or vouching the fitness of such applicant to receive a passport or makes such declaration merely on information obtained from the applicant or from any other person, commits an offense under the Act.”

The PUP’s letter, under the subheading “The Law” highlights another offense under the Belize Nationality Act.

It says, “Any person who, for the purpose of procuring anything to be done or not to be done under this Act, makes any statement which he knows to be false in a material particular commits an offense and shall, on conviction after summary trial before a magistrate, be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding twelve months”

But for Penner to be stripped of his House of Representatives seat, he would have to be convicted and sent to prison, Clerk of the National Assembly, Eddy Webster, confirmed to Amandala, on Thursday. Webster said that kind of disqualification comes under the Constitution of Belize.

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