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Oct 12, 2017

ComPol Vs C.E.O. over Immigration Investigation

The position of the Belize Police Department almost from the break in the Elvin Penner/Won Hong Kim scandal has been to take a back seat. It waited for internal investigations by the Immigration Department to proceed. Commissioner of Police Allen Whylie had to be taken to court by then-leader of the Opposition Francis Fonseca for a writ of mandamus to get a criminal investigation of the Won Hong Kim passport scandal and the man at its center, former Minister of State Elvin Penner. His prior refusal to investigate was described by the Chief Justice as “irrational, unreasonable and unlawful.” The department reportedly would not turn over important relevant material in the unsuccessful private prosecution of Penner by Geovannie Brackett and Nedal McLaren in 2015, which was thrown out at Magistrate’s Court and upheld by the Supreme Court. Even up to the time of his testimony, having read the reports, the Commissioner still preferred to wait until the Senate inquiry is done. But Immigration C.E.O. and former Auditor General Edmund Zuniga says he doesn’t have to – circumstances demand an immediate probe.

 

Allen Whylie

Allen Whylie, Commissioner of Police [File: July 19th, 2017]

“I would prefer to wait on the outcome of this Committee’s report; I don’t know what the chain is, where this will go; but I believe it will reach the D.P.P. and knowing the D.P.P., she will give directions and we will do what we need to do. As I said, I have no fear in the Department reporting; I was very annoyed in terms of when I browsed this report, because I viewed the things the Auditor General discovered as very grave, in terms of what it is alleged that some of these individuals have done. As I said I believe the report contains sufficient administratively for the Department to deal with some of these individuals, and I look forward to this Committee’s report in terms of moving forward. I’ve seen at least three occasions where the Auditor General recommended that the Police pursue certain things; as I say that, I found it strange that the Auditor General would normally do investigations and if they find irregularity they would send it to the Commissioner of Police; it was not done in this case. If I didn’t take the initiative of having an officer to get a copy of these to browse through, I would have come here today and I would have been clueless in terms of what the Auditor General had said or had found.”

 

Edmund Zuniga

Edmund Zuniga, C.E.O., Ministry of Immigration [File: October 11th, 2017]

“I think it’s a matter for the police to take the initiative, once the report has been passed to them, to deal with any criminal issue or investigation.”

 

Mark Lizarraga

“So what is your view, then, on the fact that a lot of people in government, in the police – we’ve even heard from the Commissioner saying that they are awaiting the results of these hearings before they proceed?”

 

Edmund Zuniga

“That is an interesting angle; indeed, I think that a lot of people are awaiting the outcome of these hearings in order to determine a direction one way or the other, because I do believe that this Committee is going to make some recommendations; it really is up to the different individuals.”

 

Mark Lizarraga

“Based on what you have seen, C.E.O., would you agree that the cases that the Auditor General raises that need investigation – would you agree that they do need in fact investigation.”

 

Edmund Zuniga

“Certainly; the Auditor General’s recommendations should not be taken lightly by anybody.”

 

Mark Lizarraga

“And it is your view that these investigations should have commenced already?”

 

Edmund Zuniga

“It is up to the police, the Commissioner of Police, to take on investigations without prompting from anybody.”

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