BELIZE CITY, Tues. Jan. 28, 2020– Hon. John Saldivar’s name surfaced last Thursday in court documents from the United States vs Lev Dermen case, but Prime Minister Dean Barrow asserted that there was not sufficient evidence to take action against Belize’s Minister of National Security.
Today Caribbean Shores Area Representative, Hon. Kareem Musa, wrote a letter to the Prime Minister and Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte, urging them to use the Mutual Legal Assistant Treaty with the United States that was legislated domestically as the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters (Belize/ USA) Act, to gain access to the evidence.
Hon. Musa’s letter said about the text/WhatsApp message exchanged between Jacob Kingston and Hon. Saldivar, “It is likely that the messages will reveal illegality, corruption and wrong doing.”
The letter stressed that the PUP believes that the competent authority under the treaty (the Attorney General) has a duty to invoke the provisions of the treaty, because the Belizean people have a right to know the contents of the text/WhatsApp messages.
The letter added, “Mr. Attorney General, I hereby request that you inform me in writing whether you intend to urgently request mutual legal assistance in this matter . If you do not intend to make the request, please provide your written reason for refusing to do so. Kindly let me have your response before the close of business on January 31, 2020.”
The letter ended saying that, “We reserve the right to institute legal proceedings to compel you to perform your duties to obtain and make public the contents of the texts/WhatsApp messages and other related documentary evidence.”
This morning at his law office, Hon. Musa explained to reporters his rationale for urging the Prime Minister and the Attorney General to invoke the mutual legal assistance from the United States.
“The Prime Minister sent out a press release in which he said that we cannot access that information. I [the Prime Minister] went to the Chargé d’Affaires at the US Embassy and we cannot access that information,” Hon. Musa said.
Hon. Musa called the Prime Minister’s assertion, “a blatant lie.”
He said that under this act, the Attorney General is allowed to contact the central authority regarding the matter in the United States, that being the Attorney General of the United States, to request the documents, the official records that are in this case, and it does not matter that the case is ongoing or is about to start.
“This document and these documents can be released even at this very early stage of the trial in the United States. I believe the Prime Minister has a duty to this nation. Worry about your legacy afterwards, worry about your party afterwards, but your duty right now is to this nation, and you and your Attorney General have a clear duty because both of them have given interviews on this topic, saying they cannot access anything. Both of them have a duty to this nation right now,” stated Musa.
Hon. Musa pointed to the fact that the crime of money laundering that may have been committed by a high-ranking member of the Prime Minister’s party, is all the more reason why the Prime Minister should attempt to access the information contained in the text messages that are in the court records.
“We are talking here now about a criminal offence that has taken place in the United States, the defrauding of some $500 million dollars from no less than the IRS, believe it or not. Some of that money, it is alleged, has found its way to Belize. That in itself constitutes money laundering. So, we have to look at it from a different angle, and that is from the perspective that this tainted money that was obtained illegally in the United States was spent and shared with personalities in Belize.
“The question now for the Belizean authorities should be who received those monies? Because then it looks at the crime under our laws of money laundering. What we are looking at here in Belize is whether any offence was committed on Belizean soil, whether there was receipt of proceeds of crime,” Hon. Musa declared.
In reference to Hon. John Saldivar, who is the man at the center of this controversy, Hon. Musa said that he should not be sending out these vague press releases.
“So, this gentleman, whose name has been called, has a lot to answer for. And for us all, to just ignore it and be like: okay, we can’t find the man, mek we no ask any questions. And then he has a February 9 convention. Imagine that.” remarked Musa.
“And the day after the 10th, he is supposed to become our Prime Minister. But yet, there is all this cloud of controversy over him and he can’t even talk to the media. I mean, come on,” Hon. Musa said.
Hon. John Saldivar sent out another press release today, distancing himself from any criminal wrongdoing.
Since this matter first made it into the public domain, Hon. Saldivar has sent out two press releases, proclaiming his innocence. It is noteworthy, however, that Hon. Saldivar’s press releases were not sent out from the Government Press Office, but from his own constituency office in Belmopan.
Today, Hon. Saldivar posted on his Facebook page, saying, “Not a corrupt bone in my body, Me da God pickney.”
Attorney General Peyrefitte responded to Hon. Musa, telling the media this afternoon that he did not receive the letter from the Caribbean Shores area representative.
“What the member is doing is ridiculous and downright silly. Kareem knows better than that. If you look at the MLAT Treaty that was brought down in the Mutual Legal Assistance Act, if you look at page one, page one tells you that in this case, Belize can only request information from the United States if an investigation has commenced in Belize or a prosecution has commenced or something to that effect, and we need information or documentation from the U.S.
“There is no investigation or prosecution going on here in Belize in relation to anything that’s happening in Utah, so on what basis would we ask the Americans for that information? No, that’s not the basis, that’s not how a treaty works. It tells you that I must first certify that we are investigating a fraud similar to what’s happening in Utah, and its effects here or something. We’re not doing that, we didn’t even know about this before there was a trial in the U.S.
“So we have no basis for asking the Americans that,” said AG Peyrefitte.
Feature photo: (l-r) Hon. Kareem Musa, area representative, Caribbean Shores; Hon. John Saldivar, Minister of National Security and Michael Peyrefitte, Attorney General