The Minister appears to be keeping his distance from the media, which wants to question him about reports in the Salt Lake Tribune that he was paid money by Lev Dermen, who is on trial in the US.
LADYVILE, Belize District, Fri. Jan. 31, 2020– Today was a big day for the Belize Defence Force (BDF), which is celebrating its 42nd anniversary and is also passing out Recruit Intake #65, at Price Barracks, the headquarters of the force.
Price Barracks was the center of a flurry of activities as the BDF men and women made preparations for the big event. A large tent was set up facing the Sir Colville Young Parade Square, on which the BDF band and soldiers decked out in uniform and holding semi-automatic rifles were standing at ease.
Cameramen from the various television stations were busy capturing footage, as the word began to circulate among reporters, “John no come; he sent ‘Boots’ to represent him.”
The Minister of National Security, Hon. John Saldivar, has been keeping his distance from the local media, even as his name began to surface in court documents for a major fraud trial in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Reporters at the BDF event had expected that Saldivar would have been present, because there are questions that the press would like to ask him.
As recently as yesterday, Thursday, the Salt Lake Tribune ran a story saying that Jacob Kingston, one of the four members of the polygamous Kingston family who pleaded guilty to a string of charges, including fraud and money laundering, is scheduled to testify that he paid bribe money to Saldivar upon the instruction of Lev Dermen, the last remaining accused who is on trial.
Dermen is an Armenian-American businessman who has ties to Turkey and had obtained Belize nationality under questionable circumstances, according to the Auditor General’s report on the Immigration Department.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Wilfred Elrington, had confirmed that Saldivar approached him on Dermen’s behalf after the US had objected to him (Dermen) becoming an Honorary Consul for Belize in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Dermen, according to reports in the Salt Lake Tribune, had bought property in Belize and was reportedly paying a Belize Government official US$25,000 per month. The reports did not indicate for how long the government official was being paid the money, or for what purpose.
Jacob Kingston, who was the Chief Executive Officer for Washakie Renewable Energy, a bio-diesel company which had defrauded the IRS out of US$511 million, is expected to testify that he took over the payment to the Belize Government official upon the instruction of Dermen, his business partner.
Kingston is also expected to reveal the contents of a number of text messages that he allegedly exchanged with John Saldivar.
The prosecution is aiming to prove that the funds which were paid to the Belize Government official were proceeds from the fraud against the U.S.
Saldivar has been issuing a string of press releases on his constituency letterhead, denying that he committed any wrongdoing, and insisting that the reports are not true.
On Thursday after the story was published in the Salt Lake Tribune, Saldivar again went on the defensive in a press statement, saying: “A publication today in the Salt Lake City Tribune, which is being quoted here by the Belize media, is totally untrue and misleading, without basis. The article suggests that Jacob Kingston will testify that Lev Dermen bribed me, but does not say in exchange for what. No one knows what Jacob Kingston will say and to anticipate his testimony now is malicious and mischievous.
“There is no Court document that points to any bribery on my part, and I continue to maintain that I have never done any favors for Lev Dermen in return for any cash, and there will be absolutely no evidence that Jacob Kingston can truthfully provide to prove otherwise.
“It is sad that the PUP media houses in Belize are repeating this same unfounded story over and over in a desperate attempt to smear my name without evidence.”
BDF Commanding Officer, Brigadier General Steven Ortega, told reporters that since he took over command of the BDF, this is the first time that the Minister of National Security has been absent from a passing-out parade.