Kingston, former Washakie CEO, expected to testify about bribes he paid to a Belize minister
BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Feb. 6, 2020– The trial of accused fraudster Lev Dermen continues in the US District Court in Salt Lake City, Utah. Yesterday, Jacob Kingston was led to the court in handcuffs to begin his testimony, which will continue for the next several days.
Dermen, who is also known as Levon Termendzhyan, was the business partner of the Kingston family, four of whose members have been charged in the massive fraud case involving their company, Washakie Renewable Energy, which was used to defraud the United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS) out of $511 million dollars.
The Kingstons have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. Jacob Kingston, the former CEO of Washakie, is cooperating with prosecutors and has agreed to testify against Dermen.
Kingston is expected to provide key testimony about how some of the proceeds that were derived from the fraud were spent.
News5 reporter, Hipolito Novelo, is in Salt Lake City and has been reporting on the trial.
Yesterday, Wednesday, the prosecutor guided Kingston in setting up background information for the testimony that he would provide for the prosecution’s case.
Today, Kingston testified about how Lev Dermen was introduced to Belize in 2012, and how he met the former People’s United Party (PUP) Minister, Ralph Fonseca.
Kingston named Fonseca as the Minister of Finance for Belize in 2012. Fonseca, it must be pointed out, did not have a government post in 2012. Nonetheless, Kingston laid the foundation of how Dermen went about his business in Belize.
Kingston told the court that he and Dermen traveled to Belize on several occasions in pursuit of business opportunities. They were initially interested in establishing an online casino.
Kingston said that they had made several trips to Belize in September and October. Kingston said that he bought a warehouse in Belize to house the online casino.
Kingston admitted that he used money from the fraud to pay for the warehouse that he bought in Belize. The warehouse was bought in the name of Ralph Fonseca, Kingston testified.
Kingston and Dermen were also interested in setting up a fuel depot and in investing in a port (they did not specify which port).
Also, the name of businessman Zubar Kazi came up in court today. Kazi is said to have gotten Belizean nationality and is in the Auditor General Report on the Immigration Department. Kazi operates a shrimp farm in southern Belize.
Novelo reported that the prosecutor only focused on the year 2012 and focused on how the proceeds of the fraud were spent in Belize.
On Monday, the prosecution will move into 2013 and, it is expected that the text messages exchanged between Kingston and Minister John Saldivar might be mentioned at that time.
Kingston and Dermen communicated through FaceTime and” burner” phones, so that their communications could not be tracked by US authorities.
Earlier last month, the Salt Lake Tribune newspaper published a story which stated that Kingston is expected to testify that he bribed Belize’s Minister of National Security, John Saldivar, whose name also surfaced in court documents relating to the fraud case.
Saldivar, who is one of two candidates vying for the post of party leader in the United Democratic Party national convention this coming Sunday, February 9, has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. In one of his Facebook posts, Saldivar said that there “is not a corrupt bone in my body. Me da God pikni.”
Prime Minister Dean Barrow has promised to act swiftly if evidence is presented that can prove that one of his Cabinet ministers has taken bribes.
Kingston is expected to be on the witness stand for several days. During his testimony today, Wednesday, the prosecutor laid out his background for the jury, before he began to zero in on the evidence that is reportedly contained in text messages that Kingston exchanged with Saldivar.
Kingston is also expected to testify that at the behest of Dermen, he took a monthly payment of over US$25,000 to a Belize government official.
The Washakie Renewable Energy fraud case began in August 2018 when United States federal agents arrested Jacob Kingston, 43; his brother Isaiah Kingston, 38; their mother, Rachel Kingston, 64; and Jacob Kingston’s wife, Sally Kingston.
The polygamous Kingston family was slapped with numerous charges, including money laundering, fraud, conspiracy, witness tampering and obstruction of justice. They would later plead guilty and enter into plea deals with prosecutors in order to mitigate their prison sentences.
Asher Lev Dermen, a California businessman, was also arrested and charged in the massive fraud case in which the US government was defrauded out of US$511 million biofuel tax credit.
Dermen pleaded not guilty and his trial resumed on January 26, 2020, in the US District Court, Salt Lake City, Utah.
Prosecutors in the case amassed an incredible 50 terabytes of evidence against the accused fraudsters in paper trails which stretched all the way from the United States to Turkey and Belize, where proceeds from the fraud were used to bribe officials.