By Benjamin Flowers, Staff Reporter
Former Minister of State, Elvin Penner’s legal battle with the Citizens Organized for Liberty through Action (COLA) came to an end after Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin dismissed the appeal against him.
The Chief Justice ruled on Friday that the private prosecutors, Geovanni Brackett, COLA president, and Murphy McLaren, did not produce enough evidence to have a case before the court. The CJ also ruled that the initial magistrate who heard the case made some errors in allowing the case to move forward as it did.
Brackett attributed the loss of the court battle to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Cheryl-Lynn Vidal, and the Commissioner of Police Allen Whylie. He condemned the DPP for what he feels was an apparent refusal to prosecute Penner, and the ComPol for not giving them the case file for the investigation, which would have been key evidence in the prosecution.
Attorney for COLA, Karim Musa, said that the office of the Ombudsman and the Auditor General were also at fault for not fulfilling the mandates of their office. Musa added however, that while the court dismissed the appeal it does not mean that Penner has been exonerated.
Penner stood accused of criminally facilitating the sale of a Belizean passport in 2013 to Korean national, Wong Hong Kim, who was in a Taiwanese jail at the time.
The National Trade Union Congress of Belize, the Belize National Teachers Union and the Rod of Correction movement are some of the many groups who have called for Penner to be imprisoned. The United Democratic Party (UDP) following the scandal, stripped Penner of his ministerial responsibilities and took away his government-issued vehicle.
The People’s United Party also initiated proceedings to have Penner recalled as the area representative for Cayo North, but the petition failed because the Elections and Boundaries Department disqualified numerous signatures from the petition, which left them with insufficient numbers to trigger the recall.