BELIZE CITY, Tues. Jan. 14, 2020– Just weeks ahead of the governing United Democratic Party (UDP) national convention at which delegates will choose the party’s new Leader and select members of the party to fill key executive posts, all eyes in Belize will be focused on Prime Minister Dean Barrow’s reaction when the names of two of his “Government officials” are expected to appear in an unsealed federal indictment in the US, in a massive fraud case that started in the state of Utah in March 2018.
Officially, the case is listed as United States v Kingston, because almost all of the accused are from the polygamous group known as “The Order” in Utah. Only one of the accused is not classified as part of the”Kingston” clan, and interestingly, was the recipient of Belize nationality papers.
The persons who have been indicted in the fraud case are Jacob Kingston, Isaiah Kingston, Lev Dermen, Rachel Kingston (the brothers’ mother), and Sally Kingston, the wife of Jacob Kingston.
All of the accused are charged with a variety of offenses having to do with illegally obtaining $511 million in renewable fuel tax credits through a company named Wahhakie Renewable Energy (WRE), which is owned by brothers Jacob and Isaiah Kingston. WRE is located in Box Elder County, Utah.
How all this ties in with two corrupt “Belizean officials” (the report, as far as we know, never said “Ministers”) from the Dean Barrow-led UDP government dovetails with the subject of a public inquiry into the goings-on at the Immigration Department. Levon Termendzhyan was granted Belize nationality. This is one of the nationality cases that caught the attention of the Belize Auditor General and is mentioned in her report.
Levon Termendzhyan is the Armenian name for Lev Dermen, who became a naturalized American.
In the Auditor General’s Report, Levon Termendzhyan is listed as an American whose nationality application is listed as number 31998, and is dated September 6, 2013. His nationality certificate is number 28585. The date seen on Termendzhyan’s nationality certificate is September 2, 2013. The Auditor General noted that Termendzhyan’s “nationality file [was] not found.”
No Belize passport was found for Termendzhyan, and the Auditor General Report speculated that “[the] applicant changed name”.
In 2013, the same year that Dermen was granted his Belize nationality papers, he and Jacob Kingston went on a spending spree. They bought land in Belize, reportedly for a casino, and in Washington, for a marijuana-growing farm, said a report in Standard-Examiner.
Dermen did not obtain Belize citizenship because he wanted to reside and do business in Belize. He had other far more serious plans for his relationship with Belize. He reportedly wanted Belizean diplomatic status, in the first instance, which would have facilitated his business dealings in Turkey, but when his name was recommended, the United States objected.
New evidence that the prosecutor is planning to present will feature testimony from Jacob Kingston, who is expected to testify that Dermen gave US$25,000 per month to a Belizean government official.
“In addition, the evidence will show that Dermen not only claimed to pay and did pay domestic law enforcement, but that Dermen and his associates also paid cash payments to foreign governmental officials. Kingston will testify that Dermen admitted that he had previously committed illegal acts in foreign countries, such as operating illegal casinos in Russia, and that he had never been prosecuted. Kingston will also testify that a government official from Belize was routinely paid $25,000 in cash a month by Dermen, and that when Dermen could not make the payments himself, he would ask Kingston to make the payments on his behalf. On at least one occasion, in or about February 2014, at Dermen’s request, Kingston arranged for cash payments to the Belizean official through an associate. In addition, in or about June 2013, Kingston electronically sent funds to a different Belizean government official at Dermen’s request. In addition, Kingston will testify that he witnessed Dermen’s associate, in Turkey, carry a bag of cash into a judge’s chambers in Turkey to affect his position at a judicial foreclosure auction the next day, which Kingston also attended,” said the court document, which will introduce the new evidence at the trial, which resumes on January 27.
Kingston’s testimony will also be corroborated with text messages, said the court document from US Attorney John W. Huber.
Huber and his team of prosecutors will also rely on Kingston’s testimony to prove that Dermen also threatened and used physical violence to make things go his way. Dermen often referred to his army of corrupt law enforcement officials as “the umbrella.”
Dermen’s operation also extended to Turkey, a country where he also holds citizenship. Prosecutors will have to hire a forensic auditor to sift through boxes of Dermen’s financial records that were sent from Luxemburg.
The leader of Dermen’s defense team is the Los Angeles attorney Mark Geragos. Geragos has represented music stars Michael Jackson and Chris Brown; and actors Winona Ryder and Jussie Smollett are among the celebrity clients he has represented.
Feature photo:(L-R) Lev Dermen, Isaiah Kingston and Jacob Kingston – Americans accused in fraud trial