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Apr 27, 2017

Was Elvin Penner ‘Consulting’ for Won Hong Kim?

Omar Phillips

Omar Phillips worked as a Data Entry Clerk for the Immigration Department from 2009 to 2013, when the Won Hong Kim scandal broke, and his role became known. He and two other officers, Erwin Robinson and Sharon Neal, were suspended from their jobs. They were also taken before the Public Service Commission for a hearing. In 2014, the Commission cleared Neal and issued reprimands to Phillips and Robinson, also transferring them. Robinson testified before the Senate Special Select Committee a few weeks ago, and on Wednesday, it was Phillips’ turn. He said that ‘consultants’ accompanied foreign nationals to do business with Immigration, but seemed reluctant to finger no less than the former Minister of State, Elvin Penner, as one of them. He also stated that to him the man accompanying Penner, passing himself off as Kim, resembled the photo accompanying the application, and so began the chain of events that would lead to Phillips’ own downfall, as well as Penner’s.

 

Eamon Courtenay, PUP Senator

“I’m particularly interested in your first comment about a consultant; what do you mean by that?”

 

Omar Phillips, Former Data Entry Clerk, Immigration Department

“Basically, somebody that’s doing the transaction on behalf of…even though the person is there – mostly it’s done [for] people like foreigners; Belizeans would come themselves, but the foreigners, they would not know the procedures, the processes, they would get somebody who is familiar with it and they would do the transaction for them.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“And do you know any consultants by name?”

 

Omar Phillips

“I can’t say so now.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“You know Patrick Tillett?”

 

Omar Phillips

“I heard about him from…”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“Do you know Patrick Tillett?”

 

Omar Phillips

“No, I don’t know him.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“You saw him around Immigration?”

 

Omar Phillips

“No.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“You know him as a consultant?”

 

Omar Phillips

“No.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“You know Elvin Penner?”

 

Omar Phillips

“Yes.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“What capacity did he go there that day?”

 

Omar Phillips

“Well, he was the minister at the time.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“But he didn’t come there to perform any ministerial function, did he?”

 

Omar Phillips

“No.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“So what capacity did he go there as?”

 

Omar Phillips

“Well, he was doing the transaction.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“So a consultant, by your definition?”

 

Omar Phillips

“I can’t say that, Senator; but that’s what he was doing.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“I am asking you for your evidence. In your perception, this man came before you; did you regard him as a consultant, doing business on behalf of someone else at Immigration?”

 

Omar Phillips

“The way I looked at it at the time, he was the minister.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“Yeah? What ministerial function did he perform?”

 

Omar Phillips

“Obviously, it was not a ministerial function.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“Right; what function did he perform?”

 

Omar Phillips

“To answer your question correctly, he was acting as the agent for the person.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“The agent for the person. Did you take any steps to determine who was the person who was with him, in a suit?”

 

Omar Phillips

“I looked up at the person while I was accepting the application, but to go into detail and go and check the person, if that’s what you’re asking…?”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“I want to know what you did; because this is particularly important. And I’m sure you heard the Chairman indicate that we are taking this extremely seriously and we want all witnesses to do so. And I want to know, when Mr. Penner was there as an agent, and he was beside a man in a suit, what did you do in relation to the man in the suit?”

 

Omar Phillips

“Senator, to answer your question, with the general public or anybody who applies for an application: if you present an application to me, and I look up, and it looks like the person on the document, I accept the form. We are not trained to go into detail to identify if the person is not so.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“I just asked you what you did.”

 

Omar Phillips

“That’s what I did; I looked up, and the person resembled the person in the passport and nationality form, and I accepted the form.”

 

Phillips said he did not know if the men left together or who paid the cashier. He claims it was the only time he received an application from Penner and he did not discuss its contents with anyone else other than the counter supervisor.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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