By Marion Ali
Elvin Penner, former minister of state in the Ministry of Immigration, is prosecutable many times over, according to the preliminary Auditor General’s Report on the passport scandal.
The document, according to Citizens Organized for Liberty through Action, contains damning evidence that links Penner directly to grave irregularities while he was a junior minister.
At a press conference on Thursday, COLA shared portions of a copy of the document it claimed it got from a “patriotic Belizean”.
According to Kareem Musa, attorney for COLA, in the document the AG Dorothy Bradley underscores five instances where the persons who applied for and received Belizean nationality did not qualify to become Belizeans but they got citizenship anyway.
Musa said that none of the five persons had ever visited Belize prior to receiving their passports; none had permanent residency status; the signatures on their passport application forms did not match the signatures on their other legal documents; and the nationality certificates for all five were back-dated, allegedly by Penner.
The five persons scrutinized also had the same two recommenders on their forms.
In addition to these irregularities, Musa said that the report indicated that none of the five persons paid their $300 application fee for a nationality certificate.
The report also contains statements which COLA hopes to use in its private prosecution of Penner.
The statement which Bradley reportedly acquired from Ady Pacheco, the second in command at the nationality section of the Immigration Department, alleges that Penner visited the Immigration Department in September of 2013, requested the Won Hong Kim file and others and left with them in hand.
Pacheco, the report further states, made a note of the list of the files that Penner took and gave that list to Minister of Immigration Senator Godwin Hulse.
Pacheco also purportedly says in her statement that she complied with Penner’s requests because she feared victimization and she also feared the prospect of a retaliatory transfer from that office.
In addition, Musa said that the AG’s preliminary report reflects that when she requested the records from Minister of Immigration Hulse, he claimed he did not comply because her request was not in memorandum form.
These are records that the Auditor General has reportedly made notes of in her report that are vital to her concluding her final report on the investigation.
The information that COLA shared with the media represents 95 percent of the preliminary report, according to Musa.
He said that the other five percent contained vital statements from Gordon Wade, the head of the records section and Maria Marin, the director of Immigration, which he thought will be useful in the prosecution of Elvin Penner.
Musa referred to the preliminary report as “a lead in the prosecution” but he is still depending on the police file and the passport that somehow found its way to Won Hong Kim, who was in a prison in Taiwan at the time when the scandal broke.
Musa told reporters that from all appearances, under the Passport Act, Penner and high-ranking officials at the Immigration Department committed criminal offences prosecutable by law.
However, under section 22 of the Belize Nationality Act, the opportunity to prosecute him on the four cases prior to the revelation of the Kim Won Hong has been lost because the six-month statute of limitation has expired.
As for the ruling of the Supreme Court, instructing Commissioner of Police Allen Whylie to complete the police investigation, Musa shared that COLA can enter another Writ of Mandamus application against Whylie to have the court compel him to deliver the file that the police have given to the DPP.