By Marion Ali
COLA has one month to gather enough evidence to save its private prosecution case against former minister of state, Elvin Penner.
On Thursday, Belmopan Magistrate Aretha Ford gave COLA (Citizens Organized for Liberty through Action) until June 26 to obtain the relevant substantiations or risk the matter being dismissed entirely.
COLA’s attorney, Kareem Musa, asked the magistrate for the one-month adjournment on the grounds that Commissioner of Police Allen Whylie had written him last week to inform him that the police could not give him or his client the file at this time, because the investigation was still ongoing.
Musa also based his argument on the fact that the Director of Public Prosecutions, Cheryl-Lynn Vidal, has indicated that she is willing to share the evidence with COLA once the police return the file to her office.
While he successfully argued for the extra time, Musa told the media that based on the trend of this case, he does not expect to get the file.
He, nevertheless, trusts that the rule of law will prevail, as he is prepared to consider alternative options, including summoning key witnesses who were privy to documents that Penner purportedly signed.
In court, Musa, after having explained that COLA has not been able thus far to gather key pieces of evidence from the relevant authorities, did provide partial disclosure to Penner’s attorney, Ellis Arnold, S.C.
Ellis, however, objected after revision of the document, saying, “This is not disclosure. These documents are not relevant. It does not even hint of having any evidential value that my client (Penner) is justifiably charged”.
“You must stop this abuse of the legal process,” Ellis added, as he appealed to Magistrate Ford. He also pointed out that it is a legal requirement that before a complaint is filed there must be in the possession of the complainant at least minimal evidence to allow for a further adjournment.
Musa, however, argued that it is not for Arnold to decide what weight the evidence carries.
He asked the court to allow the prosecution one month to gather the relevant material, pointing to the fact that Thursday was not the date set for trial but merely the date set for disclosure of evidence.
“This is not a strike out date. If my learned friend feels that the document does not suffice that is his opinion but it is for your honour to decide”, Musa argued.
Former Minister of State Penner is charged with “vouching the fitness” of Won Hong Kim, the South Korean who received a Belizean passport while in a Taiwanese prison whom Penner admittedly facilitated, later claiming he was duped.
The second charge against him is “making a statement which he knew to be false” for signing Kim’s Nationality Certificate knowing that he has never been a Belizean citizen.