Last week, the Police Department announced that it had launched an investigation at the Ministry of Immigration. A few days later, Commissioner of Police, Allen Whylie dropped a bombshell, when he informed the media that the man believed to be in the middle of the scandal, former Minister of State Elvin Penner, was not under the department’s investigative radar. However, with Tuesday’s revelation that further evidence of wrongdoing involving Penner was discovered by the Ministry, could this cause a shift in the focus of the investigation? Well, at the press briefing, Minister of Immigration, the Hon. Godwin Hulse, affirmed that the newly uncovered data will be provided to law enforcement. But still, this does not mean that the Police will be afforded free reign to do further digging into the Ministry. As the Minister noted, there is a system in place in terms of Police intervention. He outlined the role of his Ministry and that of the Police Department in this event.
Hon. Godwin Hulse- Minister of Immigration
“We were up there from the start. The Public Service has to look at all the administrative procedures obtained under the Public Service regulations in terms of how all officers conduct their work. We also are responsible to look that everything we have in our custody is there. We are also responsible to look that all the approval initiation and approval processes have taken place. That is what we have been doing and that is what we continue to do. When we find, as the director found last week, that certain of those things were out of course, he invited the Police to look. As we are continuing that process, we will continue to add those to the Police’s ambit; that is the process. The Police and I know there have a call from Mose and others for the Police to come in and to do the…it doesn’t work that way! This has to happen with a process. Can you imagine if the police were called in without any direction to willingly dig through what; to look for what? What would have been the result? There must be some process. We have to say from application for a passport to the issuance that all those processes were followed that they were correct. We do this file by file”.
As we showed you in Tuesday night’s newscast, due to the unearthing of further alleged irregularities, the UDP made a public appeal requesting that Penner resign as the representative for the Cayo Northeast Constituency, as well as from the UDP. But can the data warrant further, criminal action? Well, it may not be for the public to say at this time, as that information has not been disclosed. However, Minister Hulse gave his opinion on the weight of the findings.
Reporter: “Alright, and this evidence that you found over the weekend apparently incriminates former Minister of State Penner, you said, that will be handed over to the Police, because what exactly I am asking, that would direct the investigation on him.
Hon. Godwin Hulse– Minister of Immigration: “Well, yes. We are going to give the information we have. I won’t say, incriminate. I’m saying, we have found sufficient information that says to the Prime Minister and the Cabinet as he has outlined that, 1) What he has outlined today is possible, but he has made it very, very clear that there is a clear difference between factual evidence and 2) legal evidence”.
But what does that mean? Providing an example, Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, explained.
Hon. Dean Barrow- Prime Minister of Belize
“The Immigration Department has a system by which, as a kind of back-up, documents are scanned. The Minister produces to me some of the scanned documents. That’s perfectly enough for me to come to a conclusion. That’s perfectly enough for me to determine that on the facts as disclosed by the scanned documents, somebody is guilty of wrongdoing. I am saying, you go to court, a magistrate or judge will tell you: you can’t bring those scanned documents and admit it into evidence; you must produce the originals or you must explain why is it that you can’t produce the originals. There are things such as chain of custody. Even if Arthur Saldivar were to bring back the files, what could that do when he’s had them for so long? And there can be no certainty that he has not, to put it, mildly tainted the evidence. I won’t go beyond that. But that’s what I meant, that you…it happens every day in court. Somebody says, “I saw Mike Gordon stealing the bicycle”. But the lawyer says that the rules of evidence as to eyewitness testimony are A and B and C and D, and the police didn’t hold a proper identification parade, how can you say that you have difficulty understanding the difference between factual proof and legal proof?”