Barrow fires Elvin Penner over immigration scandal

The Belize Immigration and Nationality Department continues to be plagued by scandals that are potentially damaging to Belize’s national security, and now its latest scandal has cost the Minister of State with responsibility for immigration his cabinet post.
On Thursday, the Office of the Prime Minister issued a press release, which states: “The Office of the Prime Minister announces that, with immediate effect, the Hon. Elvin Penner is no longer a Minister of State in the current Administration.”
The press release said the prime minister formed the view that Penner did not discharge his responsibilities with either due judgment and balance, or scrupulous regard for appearances, which the prime minister demands of all his ministers.
When contacted via text message and asked to comment on his resignation, Hon. Elvin Penner, who is the Cayo North East Area Representative replied: “I have been elected by the people to serve them under the UDP and I will continue to serve my area to the best of my ability.”
Prime Minister Dean Barrow was briefed on the situation on Tuesday, and between Tuesday and Wednesday night, there were a series of high level meetings in Belize City between PM Barrow and some members of his cabinet.
The press release also stated: “In a related development, the Office of the Prime Minister also announces that the Immigration Ministry, together with the Ministry of the Public Service, has launched an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the issue of a Belize passport to a South Korean national.”
The release ends saying the Immigration Ministry will make a statement in the next day or so as to the result of that investigation.”
PM Barrow, when contacted via text and asked to comment on the Penner resignation would only say: “I have dealt with the minister, but will not say nothing more at this juncture so as not to prejudice the investigation that is now looking at public officers.”
According to Audrey Wallace, Chief Executive Officer in the Office of the Prime Minister, the issue was only brought to the attention of the PM on Tuesday.
Wallace said that the Immigration Ministry started its investigation on Wednesday.
When Reporter called for the acting Chief Immigration Officer, Maria Marin, we were were told that she was in a meeting with Minister Godwin Hulse, and that their meeting would last well past the 5:00 p.m. hour.
In February, Ruth Meighan, the then Immigration Director was transferred, after she had allegedly ran afoul of Minister of State Elvin Penner. Meighan was sent packing to the Ministry of Finance.
Elvin Penner has served as Minister of State with responsibility for immigration for only 15 months, when Prime Minster Barrow decided to move immigration from out of the portfolio of the Ministry of National Security, leaving Hon. John Saldivar to focus solely on National Security.
Penner has now become the only elected UDP representative in the second term government of PM Barrow who will not sit in cabinet.

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