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Sep 13, 2013

E-mails of alleged payoffs surface in the scandalous Dangriga market

In Thursday’s newscast, we reported that two investors had apparently been scammed of hundreds of thousands of dollars in a project in the south involving the Social Investment Fund. It involves the reconstruction of a million dollar market in Dangriga that was awarded to the company of a highly placed contractor from the north, Kenard Smart. The story has now taken wings because e-mails have surfaced alleging payoffs of thousands of dollars made to SIF. We broke that story on Thursday and tonight News Five’s Isani Cayetano went digging deeper.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Shortly before two o’clock this afternoon, Executive Director Daniel Cano and Project Coordinator Ernest Raymond, both representatives of the Social Investment Fund, proceeded towards a worksite where the Dangriga Municipal Market is presently being constructed.  There they were met by a small gathering of protestors, residents who are demanding jobs, as well as the immediate continuation of the suspended project.  This succeeds a letter issued on September sixth, effectively canceling a contract awarded to developer Kenard Smart.  Entangled in the fix are the investments of Lyndon Bailey and Gush and Emy Ramirez, who have injected seventy-five thousand dollars and six hundred thousand dollars, respectively.

 

Emy Ramirez

Emy Ramirez, Investor

“We did have an issue with Mr. Smart and we ended up, because of our interest, of all the money that we have injected, we ended up taking over, coming on and performing, having this project going, as you can see right, to date.  We still have people working here and we have a lot of material.  We have a lot of investment and the banks are there to prove that.  I even ended up guaranteeing the performance bond and because of all these, of course, injection, like we said, of funds into this whole thing it was of our interest to keep this project going.”

 

Despite assuming a project that was initially undertaken by Smart, on behalf of K&G Construction Ltd., the Ramirezes were not informed of the termination in writing.  Mayor Gilbert Swazo was notified of the cancellation last Saturday via email.

 

Gilbert Suazo

Gilbert Suazo, Dangriga Mayor

“I have not received any adverse report from anyone, not the project monitoring committee, neither did I receive any information from anyone from SIF indicating that there are some challenges on the project until Saturday which was, I believe the seventh.  Saturday morning, when I got into my email, it was then that I saw this letter dated the sixth, and Friday was the sixth, last week Friday, which is indicating that the contract for the market is revoked, terminated.  I was surprised and shocked.”

 

…and so were the Ramirezes.  Up until then they were unaware of an issue regarding the progress of the work since a new deadline had been set for October thirty-first.  According to Cano, the cancellation follows several holdups on Smart’s end of the agreement.

 

Daniel Cano, Exec. Dir., Social Investment Fund

Daniel Cano

“The contract was brought to an end last Friday by SIF after trying to work through it, work through the issues with the delays on the part of the contractor and not seeing a way forward.  The contract is valued at about one point three million dollars and was signed last May with a completion date of this July, which has since elapsed.  We gave them an extension of up to this October but even now the works are still not even halfway complete so we have had to take the decision to close the contract.”

 

That closure brings with it a tsunami of allegations, including an elaborate pyramid scheme on Smart’s end, as well as extortion on the part of the Social Investment Fund.

 

Lyndon Bailey

Lyndon Bailey, Investor

“Mrs. Emy, she had found herself in the same problem that I found myself in so we all started to have a series of meetings, along with the people from SIF as well to see how we can work things out but the key problem was finance, money.  Anyway, we had a meeting with the contractor general and all this while after giving him all the information he was saying to us that definitely something is wrong at SIF.”

 

That information included email correspondences between Kenard Smart and the Contractor General.  In one letter sent on February thirteenth, Smart admits to having paid several employees of SIF thousands of dollars over a period of time dating back to December 2009.  Those employees include Enrique Romero and Mike Hernandez, whose names appear on checks from K&G Construction.  The most shocking revelation is that Cano himself was allegedly party to the scheme, having received eleven thousand dollars in cash, reportedly in two installments of a thousand dollars and ten thousand dollars, respectively.

 

Isani Cayetano

“There are checks or copies of checks that have been issued to me to have a look at with regards to names that have been buttered, so to speak, dating back to 2009.  And these would be checks that were made out from K&G Ltd. to Mike Hernandez and to Mr. Romero from SIF.  There’s also an allegation that in one instance you were paid eleven thousand dollars, a thousand dollars at the office and ten thousand dollars in a black plastic bag.  I have a copy of that particular email that was sent to the contractor general.  Do you care to respond to these allegations?”

 

Daniel Cano

“I am aware of the allegations and it’s something very serious that has been alleged, something that SIF and the government are looking at very closely.  In fact, this matter is being investigated by an entity outside of SIF and really because of that I can’t say a whole lot more about it.  It is a matter [that’s] under investigation and if wrongdoing is found then clearly measures will have to be taken against the officers who are involved in that.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“You are also named in this particular allegation sir.”

 

Daniel Cano

“I am aware of that as well and likewise, the same applies to me.  If there is wrongdoing found then I should be held to the same standard.”

 

While that investigation has been commissioned, the financiers are simply trying to recover their investments.

 

Emy Ramirez

“As the financier, I mean, I only feel that SIF have taken a decision, an action to undermine me as a businesswoman knowing fully well that we have invested in this project when they have been assuring me that everything is okay and we’re performing and they were very happy and that, you know, you can see it, what is going on.  So, we had other things that were being discussed.  I do have evidence but because I am contemplating legal action against SIF and whoever else that I have to take in I would rather not say more.”

 

Cano says that both Bailey and the Ramirezes would have to recover their losses from Smart.  Left without an adequate marketplace are the vendors in Dangriga, who have been displaced for over a year.

 

Gilbert Suazo

“All those issues put together, the limited amount of employment for the residents of Dangriga, the inconvenience caused to all the people of Dangriga, the users, including the vendors, that inconvenience needs to stop as early as possible.  Furthermore, the income lost to the vendors is something that cannot continue to be tolerated.  Is SIF or the Government of Belize going to compensate those people for the loss?”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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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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4 Responses for “E-mails of alleged payoffs surface in the scandalous Dangriga market”

  1. Concern says:

    Corruption is now so rampant that it’s even seeping into organizations that are suppose to be exemplary when it comes to honesty. Everybody want a chunk of all pies and are getting it!

  2. Guerra says:

    It seems that there are so many people to pay off that half the money would be gone before the work even get started!

  3. criminal magnet says:

    With the cartels owning the government.
    Corruption officers selling passports to Hezbollah.
    People like Mello wanted by Interpol for murder.

    Belize is the place to be.
    Sunny, and plenty opportunity to screw the citizens who do not care, except when it comes to them personally getting ripped off then they are shocked.

    With BILK coming down the line, the scams will be computerized for efficiency.
    one stop thieving.

  4. criminal magnet says:

    ” Is SIF or the Government of Belize going to compensate those people for the loss?”

    LOL
    bend over and hold your breath.
    LOL
    of course they will,
    be sure to wear your UDP t-shirt when asking, they will be more gentle in their response.

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