74 F
Belize City
Wednesday, April 14, 2021
Home Headline Patt, lands, Tacoma and Li

Patt, lands, Tacoma and Li

In response to a sequence of questions about a series of land transfers to Mr. Zhouroung Li (who reportedly funded Patt’s purchase of a government vehicle), Patt’s response to the Chairman of the Commission of Inquiry was the same: “I don’t recall, Sir.”

BELIZE CITY, Fri. Feb. 26, 2021– The second session of the Commission of Inquiry into the sale of government assets prior to the recent general elections took place on Friday, February 26. During the proceedings, former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Natural Resources responded to the questions of the commissioners for a little over an hour before being informed that his purchase of the vehicle from the government could be grounds for his dismissal from Parliament.

The explosive assertion was made after several land transactions which Patt had approved were brought to light, and were tied to the person from whom Patt received funds for the purchase of a 2020 Toyota Hilux from GOB. The vehicle was first given to the former minister in February of 2020. By October of that same year, just before the general elections, Patt reportedly contacted the Financial Secretary and requested to purchase the vehicle. Patt told the commission that, in a conversation with Prime Minister Dean Barrow, he was told that he would be granted permission to purchase the vehicle, as a “special favor”.

But, according to Patt, he couldn’t make the purchase. He told the commissioners that he had run into some money problems and had to get a loan from his friend, Juvencio Herrera, to purchase the vehicle.

The revelation was made during questioning by Andrew Marshalleck, chairman of the Commission of Inquiry, who asked Patt, “The approval letter was issued in the name of one Juvencio Herrera. Who is Juvencio Herrera?”

To this question, Patt replied, “Juvencio Herrera is a friend of mine, Mr. Chairman.”

Patt told the commission that Herrera gave him a loan for $65,000 and they agreed that Herrera would keep the vehicle until Patt cleared his bill. This is where Kelvin (Zhourong) Li enters the picture: Herrera, also cash-strapped, reportedly had to borrow the money from Li to finalize the purchase.

Although Patt adamantly denied knowing Li, Marshalleck presented documents which showed a string of land transactions on which the former Minister signed off, seemingly in favor of Li. These included the procurement of national lands and transfers of private properties from various individuals.

 ”Over the period July 2020 through November 2020, you transferred 8 lots on San Pedro to Mr. Zhourong Li. Do you remember that?” Marshalleck probed.

Hugo Patt responded, “I do not remember. As I said, individually it would be very difficult for me to actually identify who got approved.”

Chairman Marshalleck then proceeded to list numerous land transactions, which former Minister Patt then said was business as usual. Patt went on to say that during the year 2019, over 13,000 different applications were processed and approved by his desk. According to him, almost the same number of applications were approved for 2020, and he argued that for him to remember each application would be “impractical.”

“At the end of the day the authority to dispose of national lands rests with the Minister does it not?” Marshalleck asked.

“Yes it does, Sir,” Patt replied.

“So the decision ultimately rests with you,” Marshalleck reasoned.

“That is precisely so,” said Patt.

“And you decided that you would ‘favor’ Mr. Li with all these parcels of lands over those months leading up to the elections?” Marshalleck enquired.

“I do not recall that I favored Mr. Li or if I favored anybody…,” Patt then said.

The chairman of the commission went on to reveal additional land transactions, seemingly in favor of Kelvin Li. In reference to each of these transactions, he asked Patt whether he recalled issuing approval, and to each of those questions, there was one refrain from Patt: “I do not recall, Sir.”

The exchange was as follows:

Chairman Marshalleck: “Do you recall that on 3rd November 2020 you approved 12.299 acres in Carmelita to Mr. Zhourong Li?”

Hugo Patt: “I do not recall, Sir.”

Chairman Marshalleck: “Do you recall that on the 27th October 2020 you transferred half an acre in San Pedro to Mr. Zhourong Li?”

Hugo Patt: “I certainly do not recall, Sir.”

Chairman Marshalleck: “Do you recall that on the 3rd November 2020, as well, you also transferred 52.7 acres, 10-pound Caye registration section to Mr. Zhourong Li?”

Hugo Patt: “I do not recall, Sir.”

Chairman Marshalleck: “Do you recall that on the 14th August 2002 you transferred 2.04 acres in San Pedro to Mr. Zhourong Li?”

Hugo Patt: “I do not recall, Sir.”

Chairman Marshalleck: “Do you recall that the same day, 14th August 2020, you also transferred a lot comprising 486.277 square meters on Caye Caulker to Mr. Zhourong Li?”
Hugo Patt: “I do not recall, Sir.”

Chairman Marshalleck: “Do you recall that on the 27th July 2020 you transferred a lot, parcel 2483, San Pedro, to Mr. Zhourong Li?”

Hugo Patt: “I do not recall, Sir”.

Chairman Marshalleck: “What about on the 13th August 2020, another lot, parcel 8673 on San Pedro to Mr. Zhourong Li. Do you remember that?”

Hugo Patt: “I do not recall, Sir.”

Chairman Marshalleck: “And what about on the 23rd July 2020 you transferred two parcels, two lots on San Pedro, two more lots on San Pedro to Mr. Zhourong Li, parcels 8564 and parcels 6807?”

Hugo Patt: “I do not recall, Sir.”

Chairman Marshalleck: “And then on the 27th July, two days later, you transferred another lot on San Pedro to Mr. Zhourong Li, a parcel 6791. Do you remember that?”

Hugo Patt: “I do not recall, Mr. Chairman.”

Chairman Marshalleck then posed the question to Patt: “Does it surprise you that you would have approved and transferred so many lots to a single person?”

Patt then attempted to offer an explanation: “Mr. Chairman, as I indicated, whenever files are sent to us, it’s because it has gone through the process. Who makes an application and/or does not make an application is not something that I tend to have a clear look at — once the applications are received, then we signed off on them.”

As mentioned, Patt justified his signing off on the dozens of land transactions in favor of Kelvin Li by saying they all went through “the process” at the Lands Department before arriving at his desk. While he attempted to suggest that no special treatment was given to certain individuals to expedite applications, he eventually admitted that land applications coming from his constituency were given that special treatment from time to time.

All the transfers to Li occurred in one day. Former Minister Patt said this was also the usual process, since the Ministry had implemented an upgrade to expedite the signing off of land transactions that had gone through the vetting process.

Marshalleck also outlined that from October 2019 to November 2020 there were also a dozen transfers of government lands to Li from third parties — again, a number of them in San Pedro, and this time two parcels were transferred to Li by the sons of Patt’s former political colleague, Edmond Castro. Patt maintained, however, that he had no knowledge of the transactions.

He was questioned for some minutes by the other commissioners before Chairman Marshalleck then asked: “Does it concern you any that the contract with the government for the acquisition of the vehicle would disqualify you as a sitting member of the House? You see, sitting members may only enter into contracts with the government with permission of the Governor-General. The Constitution is very clear on it.”

Patt replied that as far as he is aware, his purchase of the vehicle was legal. In connection to the investigation into the sale of the vehicle, Juvencio Herrera was also called, but he lawyered up moments before the hearing. He was given until March 10 to prepare his case and appear in front of the commission.

We will have more from the second session of the Commission of Inquiry in the weekend issue.

- Advertisment -

Most Popular

Accused rapists get bail

BELIZE CITY, Mon. Apr. 12, 2021-- On Friday, April 9, Justice Herbert Lord granted bail to two men accused of the rape of a...

COVID-19 update 

BELIZE CITY, Mon. Apr. 12, 2021-- The Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW) is investigating the first death believed to be related to the...

You’ll have to go left, PM

Well, John B, over these next five years you will be the father of a nation that even prior to Covid-19 was in desperate...

BNTU awaiting membership mandate

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Apr. 8, 2021-- At this time, the membership of the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU) has not come to a final...