By Marion V. Ali
Former Minister of State Elvin Penner, the man at the center of the seven-month long “Citizen Kim” scandal, was charged Thursday with two counts “making a false statement” in the Belmopan Magistrate court.
Penner pleaded not guilty to both charges, and was granted and met bail of $2,000 plus one surety in the same amount.
The charges were brought under Sections 3 (A) of the Passports Act and under Section 22 of the Belize Nationality Act, through a private prosecution case initiated by activists, Geovanni Brackett, the president of the Citizens Organized for Liberty through Action, and Nedal Jihad McClaren of the Commoners Movement.
Brackett’s and McClaren’s attorney, Kareem Musa, who represent the men pro-bono, spoke to reporters following the court proceedings.
He commended McLaren and COLA for being the ones to press forward with the charges against Penner “at a time when nobody else wanted to step up.
“There are many other ministers who feel as they are abnormal. They need to face the courts as well,” Musa added.
The Director of Public Prosecutions, Cheryl-Lyn Vidal, who shared with COLA the evidence that the police have so far furnished her, sat as an observer in court.
Thursday’s arraignment of Elvin Penner is the first time in recent memory that a sitting area representative has been criminally charged with an offense.
Penner is to return to court on May 29, when COLA and their attorney Kareem Musa are expected to provide him and his attorney, Senior Counsel Ellis Arnold, with disclosure of the evidence.
Writ of Mandamus
In late February, Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin’s decision to grant the People’s United Party’s application for a writ of mandamus for the Commission of Police Allen Whylie to complete the investigation into the “Citizen Kim” scandal gave COLA’s private prosecution an extra boost.
However, the media has since learned that the commissioner had opted to appeal that decision.
Musa charged that the Commissioner’s decision to appeal the Writ of Mandamus was a tactic to delay the process. That intention, however, does not negate the Commissioner’s duty to still carry out a full investigation into the Penner case.
Over the next two months, Musa said, he will require Commissioner Whylie to turn over all the files that he has on the Penner case over to him for prosecution.
“A step towards justice has been taken, but we are not contented with the behaviour of the Commissioner and the direction that he has carried out this investigation and we still wish to have a full investigation,” Musa shared.
The media was unable to get any comment from Penner, who was surrounded by a band of supporters who shielded him from reporters.,
The 42-year-old disgraced politician and Cayo Northeast area representative, is accused of having signed documents that suggested that South Korean white-collar criminal Wong Hong Kim, who happened to have been in a Taiwanese jail at the time, met the criteria to become a Belizean citizen and obtain a Belizean passport. Penner allegedly vouched for “the fitness”, purporting to have personally know Kim for many years.