The preliminary report of Auditor General Dorothy Bradley continues to be a talking point for those insisting that the Ministry of Immigration is actively trying to prevent former Minister of State Elvin Penner from being criminally charged under the concurrent investigations of the Police, Financial Intelligence Unit, Auditor General and the Ministry itself. The latest bone of contention is over a statement made by a senior official in the Ministry to the investigating auditors that Elvin Penner personally obtained the file of South Korean businessman, recipient of a Belizean passport and nationality, Won Hong Kim, along with a letter that was said to be sent to his boss, Minister of Immigration Senator Godwin Hulse. Senator Hulse says it is standard practice at the Ministry but where it went wrong is that Elvin Penner apparently never returned the file and he does not know where the letter accompanying it is.
“First of all, the process is that all the files when they are prepared should go to the Minister for his signature. That is always done by way of some correspondence. So there’s a chain of command, that the files would go to the Minister for signature. That, I think, is the letter that she’s talking about. The letter is not with me, but I saw the letter. there are hundreds of these letters which say, ‘Hon Minister, attached are the following files for your signature.’ It always happens. So there’s a chain of custody of those files. When the Minister gets them, generally they’re sent to the secretary or somebody. In this case the Minister got it himself. When he has signed them, he should return them to the Department, because after that they are then prepared for swearing in etcetera. So all the files go back, with the Minister having signed the ones that he had to sign or rejected the ones that he doesn’t feel he should sign. So i don’t know where it want from there. According to him the files went back. According to them it didn’t come back. But there’s no chain of custody to say it came back, and that’s where we are. So that letter is not untoward in any way. The General knows that. the Police knows that. Everybody knows that.”
But according to the Minister, the timeline as to when Elvin Penner took the Kim file and others needs to be cleared up by the questioned official, who it is alleged wrote to the Minister regarding Mr Penner’s actions, a letter the Minister says he knows nothing of. Did Elvin Penner go into the Ministry after he had already been fired by Prime Minister Dean Barrow? Senator Hulse says he does not know that either.
Senator Godwin Hulse
“I know absolutely nothing about that. That’s news to me. If Ms. Pacheco indicates that then she has to produce that evidence, that after the investigation he came for file. I know absolutely nothing about that. I am telling you what we know. The only letter we know about is that prior to the Won Hong Kim file, which also includes the Won Hong Kim file, a letter was sent to the Minister with several files including that file for his perusal. That’s where we are. I don’t know about anything after this thing burst and Mr. Penner went back because I doubt that would have happened. And if it happened then she is on the line because the following day after we found that matter Minister Penner was removed from the ministry.
“Sir when you say a letter was sent to the Minister you’re referring to Minister of State Penner, but she is saying, as I understand it, that a letter was sent to you, that she sent a letter to you with a list of the files that Elvin Penner took out of the department.”
Senator Godwin Hulse
“Never sent any letter to me…absolutely not…categorically no. So if she says that that is absolutely incorrect.
Perhaps the only person who knows the truth is Penner himself, and he certainly isn’t talking. But the breakdown in the chain of custody and command is obviously frustrating for the Minister.
Senator Godwin Hulse
“I can say to you unequivocally and categorically and accurately that the letter which was sent to Minister Penner with the files, all of us have seen that. The Police have seen that. The Ministry has seen that. The Auditor-General has seen that letter that said that Minister Penner received those files on that particular day for his perusal. Finished! Now we don’t have a letter, now do we have the file from Won Hong Kim. We don’t have a letter from Minister Penner or his secretary saying I have looked at these files and returned them to the department. We don’t have that. So we cannot at this stage say it. That is why we keep saying we don’t have the Minister Penner file cause we cannot say if they were returned or not returned. He says it was returned, they say it wasn’t, so it’s he said, they said. There is no chain of custody of that. There is chain of custody saying that it went to him. But there’s no chain of custody to say it came back from him. That’s where we are with that. But there’s no letter that was written to me saying that.”
Citizens Organized for Liberty through Action (COLA), the only known holders of the Auditor General’s Report outside of Government, say they will respond.