BELIZE CITY, Mon. Oct. 31, 2016–In 2013, Prime Minister Dean Barrow fired then Cayo Northeast area representative Elvin Penner from Cabinet when it was discovered he had arranged a Belizean passport for a Korean sitting in a Taiwanese jail who had never set foot in Belize.
As the Penner Passport Scandal raged on, Barrow later announced that Penner would not be allowed to seek re-election.
At the time, critics argued that Penner was getting off lightly because he still was being allowed to enjoy all the benefits and perks of an area representative.
We now know that those benefits extended to choice real estate for him and his immediate family. According to documents obtained from the Department of Lands and Surveys, months after being dismissed from Cabinet, Penner and his family were the recipients of a total of 83.84 acres of prime property in the Mountain Pine Ridge and Turneffe Islands area.
The documents reveal that Elvin Penner’s mother, Lena Penner, received 36.70 acres of land in the Mountain Pine Ridge area of Cayo for the generous sum of $9,776.00.
That was in June 2015, just months away from the November 5 general election. A quick tabulation shows that Mrs. Penner paid a measly $266 per acre for some of the choicest land in the country.
Meanwhile, Elvin Penner’s father, Edward Penner, was the recipient of 10.07 acres of prime land on the Turneffe Island. On October 20, 2014, the purchase price for this property was set at $65,000.
However, on October 26, 2015, days away from the general election, the price appeared to have been reduced by some $39,000, to $26,000, a figure that land aficionados say is rather low for land on Turneffe Island.
Additionally, documents dating back to June 12, 2012 revealed that Elvin Penner himself had also gotten in on the choice real estate in the Mountain Pine Ridge area – 36.17 acres of it.
However, it wasn’t until June 1, 2015, that the purchase price was set at $9,404.20 for this prime land. Again, a quick tabulation reveals that like his mother, the former Minister of State in Immigration paid a mere $260 per acre.
The Elvin Penner and Gaspar Vega cases both suggest that even after these former Cabinet ministers left Cabinet in the wake of heavy controversy and purported corruption, the Government of Belize continued to provide great assistance to them.
In the case of former Deputy Prime Minister Vega, a leaked letter revealed that just four days after the Prime Minister announced his resignation from Cabinet, he requested and was granted duty exemption on a 2016 Lexus SUV.
Our sources say that it is not unusual for area representatives to get duty exemption for at least one private motor vehicle, but this latest exemption has triggered some outrage, since it comes days after it was revealed that Vega’s son was paid $400,000 by GOB for a land GOB originally sold him for $2,500 – a land GOB had no right selling in the first place, since it already had an owner.