By Benjamin Flowers Staff Reporter
The Peoples United Party claims to have more evidence of sums of money paid to Hon. Edmond Castro by the Belize Airport Authority, but the Prime Minister says these payments do not amount to corruption.
PUP leader, Francis Fonseca, announced at Wednesday’s Special Sitting of the House of Representatives that he had 60 cheques from the Belize Airport Authority for Castro’s personal use.
Fonseca went on to say that Castro’s family members also received money from the BAA.
“There are at least 10 cheques, in varying amounts, Mr. Speaker, which are made out to family members of the Belize Rural North’s representative. Cheque #005067 for $400, cheque #004750 for $520, Cheque # 005144 for $1,132, These are made out to Ionie Castro.”
Prime Minister Dean Barrow, while he condemned the action, said that it doesn’t amount to corruption.
“This is not corruption,” he declared. He described the situation as “utterly and completely distasteful” but said that the Airport Authority was in the full exercise of its jurisdiction.
“He didn’t steal the money from the Airport Authority! He didn’t get the money under false pretences,” Barrow reasoned.
The Prime Minister said that he did not believe that Fonseca had a total of 60 cheques, and challenged him publicly to produce them.
He maintained that a minister getting funds from a statutory agency to help himself or his constituents politically is a practice “as ancient as the hills.”
In December 2013, the Belize Times published a copy of a cheque for more than $4,000, which was used to cover funeral expenses for Castro’s mother. Since then the paper has published nine cheques, three of them made out directly to Castro, totalling $10,000, and the others to businesses such as funeral homes, chicken shops, beverage companies and bike shops totalling $15,000 – allegedly for his work as Belize Rural North Representative.