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Oct 10, 2013

A flashback at the political life of Elvin Penner

Elvin Penner

Elvin Penner came to public light when he won elections for Cayo Northeast in 2008. He became the first Mennonite to hold political office. Between 2008 and 2012, he was gifted with the rank as full minister, but in this second Barrow Administration, Penner returned as a junior minister as minister of state for immigration. Eighteen months after his appointment to that portfolio Penner has suffered a crushing fall from grace over what has become one of the biggest passport scandals. Mike Rudon traces Penner’s political career.

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

The tale of Elvin Penner’s fall from public grace was perhaps foretold eighteen months ago, during an era of mass, very questionable immigrant nationalizations. Just days before general elections of March, 2012, hundreds of immigrants were rushed through the process and sworn in, many of them by Penner.

 

Elvin Penner, Paid for Nationalizations [File: September 19, 2013]

“I will pay half of the cost of the nationality. Of course we do the police record and everything and so there is a cost to it. But it is of course twofold again. It’s a political reason behind it. We want to get our voters in. I won’t deny that any at all. I am right now digging myself into a hole.”

 

A hole that would only get deeper with time. The allegations of nationalization discrepancies were rampant and credible…made even more so when footage was taken of Penner and others moving files out of the Immigration Department in Belmopan in the dead of night.

 

Eloy Waight, Witnessed Files Being Moved [File: January 19, 2012]

“What I saw was that you had the area representative for Corozal Southwest, you had honorable Elvin Penner and you had a gentleman by the name of Mister Cruz, past Mayor of San Ignacio and Santa Elena and you had a young chap by the name of Oton Castillo Junior. They were all involved in removing several large manila envelopes from the Immigration Department”

 

Penner would go on to win the Cayo Northeast seat by only seventeen votes, with scandal and rumours of corruption following him to victory…a victory for which he was ironically rewarded with the portfolio of immigration.

 

Dean Barrow

Dean Barrow, Prime Minister [File: March 13, 2012]

“And he will be assisted by Minister of State, Elvin Penner who will have particular responsibility for immigration and border protection and the immigration department.”

 

Penner’s ascension to power in the Ministry of Immigration would be meteoric, but his fall assured. Enter South Korean national WonhongKim. In September Kim received Belizean nationality and a Belizean passport in one day. Minister of State Elvin Penner signed his nationality certificate and his passport application. Penner claims he and Kim had been friends for three years. So friendly, in fact, that Penner claims in an email that he went with Kim to the passport office to ensure that his friend was treated well.

 

But he lied. Wonhong Kim was never in Belize. In fact, Kim was detained in a Taiwanese prison, where he had been since July thirtieth. He was awaiting extradition to South Korea where he was wanted in connection with the embezzlement of millions of dollars. The photo on Kim’s nationality certificate and his Belizean passport match the photo on his South Korean passport. He was never in Belize. He never visited the passport office. So how was the process subverted?

 

Godwin Hulse

Godwin Hulse, Minister of Immigration [File: October 9, 2013]

“That is a watertight system, so if it falls down it falls down at the recommenders and it falls down at the persons who are doing the processes.”

 

Penner was the recommender. He signed both the nationality certificate and the passport application forms. His signatures are there in black and white. He has been fired from Cabinet, but has never been the focus of any criminal investigation or action. But while his role in the passport scandal clear…has a crime been committed? A wide cross-section of the Belizean people and organizations seem to believe so. The leader of the nation disagrees.

 

Dean Barrow, Prime Minister [File: October 2, 2013]

“I think that he has been properly punished for his role in the incident but I also said, both as a lawyer and as head of the government, I looked at the circumstances as closely and as fairly and as critically as I could and I am satisfied that there is no basis on which any criminal charges could successfully be laid.  There is no evidence at all that could sustain a criminal prosecution against Penner.  That is my position.”

 

Dickie Bradley – Attorney [File: September 26, 2013]

Dickie Bradley

“If you sign any official document claiming something and signing to something which is in fact not so, it’s not factual – I certify that I have known Mr. X, Y, Z for the past three years when in fact that is obviously a lie…you sign to say that this photograph is the true likeness of Mr. X, Y, Z whom I know personally and you could not have known the person personally because you don’t live in Taiwan or Korea and that person doesn’t live in Belize or Cayo. When you’re doing that, you’re engaging in an act of deception. You’re in fact forging or frauding a document for the purposes of gaining some monetary gain. Those are very serious crimes. Those are crimes that call for imprisonment, once it is proved.”

 

The Police were called in at four thirty on Tuesday, October eighth. What they will unearth is anybody’s guess, though best guesses suggest that Penner will emerge virtually unscathed. He remains a public pariah, but a political tool, endorsed by his leader, and the leader of the nation, Prime Minister Dean Barrow.

 

Dean Barrow, Prime Minister [File: October 4, 2013]

“The party will rally around Elvin Penner.  We believe that he deserves a second chance.”

 

The people will determine if Penner gets that second change. Pressure continues to mount from every sector. The recall process has been triggered in Cayo Northeast. And to add fuel to a brightly burning fire, nationality documents are slowly leaking out of the Immigration Department…documents for Asian and Middle Eastern nationals…all with the signature of Elvin Penner. All indications are that this is just the tip of the iceberg which is damaging the ship of state. Mike Rudon for News Five.

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2 Responses for “A flashback at the political life of Elvin Penner”

  1. Concern says:

    Penner;”I am right now digging myself into a hole.”

    The man never stopped digging, and now he has fallen into that hole, and the others are lining up behind him because the hole is now big enough to hold all of them comfortably. The slush fund temptation is just too great, so we need to keep it flowing. If we are going down, we need to get every $ available to the very end! So deep is our LOYALTHY.

  2. sickntired says:

    I can fulky understand why these ministers thief. If there a special few that thepm smiles on why should the rest stand by with empty hands? I have always been amazed at how udp inner circle protect and enrich their own and stingy – no share nothing. At least pup used to look out for everybody. Udp string out they own party people and drive them to the edge. Look at one of their former deputies – they just let the man shoot himself cause they refuse to give him a helping hand. Udp no help nobody and they will pay dearly for it cause people will remember that the same way udp abandin them they be abandoned come voting time.

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