The document points to text messages between Minister John Saldivar and Jacob Kingston, who pleaded guilty to defrauding the IRS of US$511 million and is awaiting sentencing
BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Jan. 23, 2020– Since it was revealed that a Cabinet minister in the Dean Barrow-led United Democratic Party government was receiving US $25,000 per month from a U.S. businessman, who has been indicted in the US for fraud, Belizeans have begun to pay attention to the case, which has been going on for more than a year in the state of Utah.
Today, court documents surfaced on social media, which indicate the existence of text messages between Minister of National Security John Saldivar and one of the convicted men, which are part of new evidence that the prosecution intends to present when the trial resumes on Monday, January 27.
The mention of Minister Saldivar’s name in the court document immediately made it into the online news of several media outlets, and that in turn prompted an official response both from the government and the Opposition People’s United Party. Saldivar also responded with a one-paragraph press release.
Saldivar’s release said: “Nothing has changed from the position outlined in my statement of January 15, 2019 [he meant 2020]. The information being circulated regarding expected testimony in US proceedings contains no allegation against me of any wrongdoing.”
The press release from the Office of the Prime Minister explained that “various media houses have asked the Prime Minister whether the new extract, which alleges the existence of text messages between Minister John Saldivar and Lev Dermen’s convicted co-conspirator, Jacob Kingston, provides a sufficient basis for the Prime Minister to act now [to fire Saldivar].”
The release continued, “The short answer is that it does not.”
The Office of the Prime Minister’s release went on to say that, “The extract only speaks to the alleged existence of the text messages. It does not disclose the contents of those messages or even the subject matter of the texts.”
Barrow’s press release went on to say, in respect to the existence of the texts, “It absolutely does not constitute so much as an allegation — much less provable material — that Minister John Saldivar received money from Kingston or Dermen.”
Barrow went on to say that if he were to act now “that would be a gross violation of the rules of fair play and the Minister’s constitutional rights.”
Barrow also took aim at the Opposition for their assertion that he could get the information from the US Embassy to act against his minister.
“The Prime Minister spoke to the U.S Charge d’ Affaires, who has now publicly made it clear that the U.S. Embassy can do no such thing,” stated Barrow.
The press release also said that the Prime Minister also spoke to the Belize Financial Unit (FIU) and that the FIU has turned up nothing on Dermen or any minister of government.
“The OPM reiterates the prime minister’s solemn promise to act immediately on the basis of any forthcoming evidence against any minister,” the release ended saying.
Leader of the Opposition John Briceño told reporters today that once again John Saldivar is disgracing this country by associating with the wrong persons.
Hon. Briceno also suggested that the FIU contact US authorities and tell them that they are conducting a local investigation.
Briceño said that the Prime Minister needs to stop defending his ministers, and do the right thing. He said that the Barrow government is the most corrupt government this country has seen.
‘The proverbial noose is tightening around both John Saldivar and the Prime Minister’s neck,” Hon. Briceño said.
The trial of the fraud case, Kingston v United States, in which the businessman, Lev Dermen, is a co-defendant, had adjourned to give prosecutors time to pore over new evidence they are planning to lead. Dermen pleaded not guilty to fraud and other charges in the state of Utah, where the trial has been going on for more than a year now.
Dermen’s co-defendants are four members of the polygamous Kingston family, who have already pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. They could be sentenced to as much as 30 years in a federal prison.
In addition, in their plea deal, the state will acquire the Kingston’s bio-fuel company, which was used to perpetrate the fraud against the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Last July, United States District Judge Jill Parrish, who is presiding over the fraud case, denied a motion from Dermen to sever his case from those who are accused with him.
Prosecutors in the $511 million fraud case are expected to lead evidence from Jacob Kingston which will identify Dermen’s connection with Belize’s Minister of National Security, John Saldivar, and quite possibly, another minister from PM Barrow’s cabinet.
In a press release issued by Saldivar last week, he vehemently denied that he was involved in any quid pro quo activity with Dermen.
“At no time did I use my office for any such vile quid pro quo activities as the political propagandists suggests. Any such suggestion is obviously motivated by political actors who are intent on seeking to gain political mileage for the imminent elections,” said Saldivar in his press release last week.
Prime Minister Barrow, at his press conference on the subject, has promised to deal swiftly with any of his ministers who are proved to have been involved in the bribery allegation.
Dermen was purportedly paying a Belize government official US$25,000 per month and Jacob Kingston is expected to identify text messages between himself and Minister Saldivar. Kingston had alleged that on one occasion, he provided the money to a Belize official upon Dermen’s instruction.
To date, there has been no official comment on how Lev Dermen obtained his Belizean nationality certificate. There is no official file at the Immigration and Nationality Department, the Auditor General said in her 2011-2013 report on the Nationality Department.