BELIZE CITY, Mon. Feb. 10, 2020– Yesterday was one of the most momentous days in the political career of Minister John Saldivar. That would have been hard to guess, however, from the way he sneaked into the Belize Civic Center from the rear entrance, and his continuing effort to avoid members of the media, who took up positions outside the Belize Civic Center at the front entrance, because the UDP, which was holding its national convention inside the facility, had banned the media from entering the grounds of the convention.
Although Saldivar emerged as the newly elected leader of the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP), he could not hide from the torrent of evidence coming out of the Washakie fraud trial in Salt Lake City, Utah, today.
Both national and international news outlets are reporting that Saldivar allegedly was paid tens of thousands of dollars by accused fraudster Lev Dermen.
The Salt Lake Tribune came out today with a screaming banner headline: “Washakie fraud defendant paid thousands of dollars to man next in line to lead Belize, Utah’s Jacob Kingston testifies.”
The story, which was written by the Tribune’s Nate Carlisle, a journalist who has done extensive coverage of the Washakie fraud case, is complete with a photograph of Saldivar taken last December when he toured security facilities in Belize.
Testifying at the trial of Lev Dermen today is Jacob Kingston, the former CEO of Washakie Renewable Energy, which bilked the US Internal Revenue Service out of $511 million by falsifying biofuel tax credits.
Kingston, who along with three members of his family, pleaded guilty to a number of offences in the case, recalled a 2013 trip that he made to Belize with Dermen. The two traveled to Belize to pursue an interest in building a casino and met Minister of National Security, John Saldivar.
“Kingston testified that he saw Dermen meet with John Saldivar, the Central American country’s security minister,” said the Salt Lake Tribune.
“Did you ever witness [Dermen] and John Saldivar do business together?” federal prosecutor Richard Rolwing asked Kingston.
“I was there when Levon gave him money,” Kingston replied.
“Kingston testified that he saw Dermen pay Saldivar stacks of cash in $10,000 increments. Kingston did not know specifically why the money was paid, but assumed it was part of the various government protections Dermen purchased in the United States and abroad,” the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
The Tribune went on to report that Kingston testified that Saldivar took them on a trip, using a Belize Coast Guard boat. A picture of two Coast Guard officers in orange life vests and one of them armed with a rifle was shown to the jury, but the judge did not allow it into the evidence because the prosecutor had improperly introduced it.
In the picture, however, Dermen is seen between the two Coast Guard men.
Dermen is facing two counts of fraud and eight counts of money laundering, and could spend the rest of his life in prison if he is found guilty.
The US has confiscated a number of multi-million-dollar properties from the Kingstons that were said to have been purchased with the proceeds of the fraud. It is therefore entirely possible that whatever properties were purchased in Belize and Turkey with proceeds from the fraud are liable to be confiscated by the U.S.
Feature photo: Hon. John Saldivar, new UDP Leader-Elect