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May 29, 2014

Elvin Penner returns to court; case adjourned

Elvin Penner

The private prosecution brought by COLA against former Minister of State Elvin Penner came back to the courtroom of Magistrate Aretha Ford in Belmopan this morning. Penner sat through the proceedings which concluded before eleven o’clock. No evidence for disclosure has been obtained by COLA because until now the Penner files could not located. With the case seemingly on life support, Penner’s attorney, Ellis Arnold, submitted that the case be struck out. But COLA’s attorney, Kareem Musa, argued that the submission was premature. The incident for which Penner has been charged goes back to last September when he issued an illegal passport to Kim Won Hong.  But, since a criminal investigation seemed to be going nowhere, COLA jumped into the fray with a public prosecution. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports on today’s proceedings.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Northeast Area Representative Elvin Penner was back in court this morning, where he appeared, along with Senior Counsel Ellis Arnold, before Magistrate Aretha Ford.  Today’s session was another unclosed chapter in the seemingly unending saga involving the disgraced former Minister of State.   Claimants Geovannie Brackett and Nidal Jihad McLaren, both executives of COLA, through attorney Kareem Musa, were to present full disclosure of evidence to proceed with a private prosecution.

 

Kareem Musa, Attorney for COLA

Kareem Musa

“Senior Counsel Mr. Arnold made a submission that the matter be struck out at this stage but I indicated to the learned magistrate that today was not a date for trial.  In fact, it is merely the disclosure date, so such a submission can only come once evidence has been led, meaning that witnesses had taken the stand and, in fact, they have determined or the magistrate has determined that there is not sufficient evidence for the matter to go on.  This is not the stage for that so I think that it was a premature attempt on the part of the defendant.”

 

While Penner sat in the dock, his attorney argued unsuccessfully that the matter of a criminal case against him, for several infractions related to the issuance of a fraudulent Belizean passport to Korean national Kim Wong Hong, be dismissed on the grounds of insufficient evidence.  After all, COLA has been having a rather difficult time trying to secure the relevant documents from the Immigration and Nationality Department, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Commissioner of Police.

 

Kareem Musa

“On the twentieth of May, we received a correspondence after a month and a half because we had requested that information from the Commissioner of Police on April ninth, I believe, formally requested under the Freedom of Information Act, that he turn over the investigative file in relation to the Elvin Penner matter.  We received a correspondence finally from the Commissioner of Police in which he said that due to the fact that it may lead to a public prosecution, and also the fact that the investigation is still ongoing, he is not in a position to turn over the file to us at this stage.”

 

That bundle of documents is presently in the hands of Assistant Commissioner of Police Russell Blackett.  This is after the back and forth between the D.P.P.’s Office and the Police Department as to the whereabouts of the folder.  According to ACP Blackett, additional work must be done in order to complete the investigation.

 

Russell Blackett, Assistant Commissioner of Police

Russell Blackett

“The file was returned from the D.P.P.’s Office apparently about two weeks ago.  We have some work to get done on the file and as soon as that is completed we will return the file to the D.P.P. and we will discuss and see what is the way forward.”

 

At that point, says Musa, D.P.P. Cheryl Lynn Vidal will be more than helpful in providing those papers to move the process along.

 

Kareem Musa

“The D.P.P. has written to us indicating that she has absolutely no problem turning over the file to us once she receives it back from the police.  It is on that basis that I requested an adjournment today and thankfully the magistrate realized that while this may be a private prosecution, a lot of the evidence is in the public realm.  And so, Mr. Brackett can’t just go to the Immigration Department and find the passport.  He cannot go into the Immigration Department and pick up the investigative file or the immigration file so indeed we do rely heavily on what the police has gathered and I think the magistrate has realized that.”

 

While an adjournment has been set for June twenty-sixth, there is little hope that the criminal investigation will have concluded by then.  That outcome will certainly have a bearing on how the case proceeds.

 

Russell Blackett

“I must say that I am very disappointed.  It is a very frustrating experience.  I am not expecting to get the file but I am hopeful that at the end of the day the rule of law will prevail and we will be getting that file.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“This morning in court, the attorney for COLA, Kareem Musa, requested an adjournment of a month.  The matter is to resume before Magistrate Aretha Ford on June twenty-sixth.  Is it possible that the additional work that needs to be done will be completed before or by that date?”

 

Russell Blackett

“Well I cannot set a timeline on that.  Some work that needs to be done is beyond our control and we want the public to understand that that is beyond our control.  We have requested certain things, it is beyond our borders and as soon as that is clarified and the work is done then we will know exactly where we will go from there.”

 

Geovannie Brackett

The bureaucracy, in Brackett’s opinion, is in place to purposely thwart the process.

 

Geovannie Brackett, President, COLA

“Even though that we see that the system has done its best to frustrate this process, even though it was a suggestion of the prime minister, we can clearly see that every move that COLA has made that every single department in the government whether they are directly attached or appear to be independent, have tried to frustrate the process.  We are hoping that at some the police department, at some point the Commissioner of Police will return the file to the D.P.P. for her to decide to give us.”

 

The date for that handing over, should it come before the June twenty-sixth deadline, remains uncertain.  COLA, on the other hand, has indicated that its only other recourse would be to summon Prime Minister Barrow and Minister of Immigration Godwin Hulse to appear before the court, in default of that document. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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3 Responses for “Elvin Penner returns to court; case adjourned”

  1. Truth says:

    Check his House or his friends they must have a copy hidden somewhere..
    true corruption and yet dean barrow stands firmly defending and helping these crooks cover their tracks. senseless and Corrupt GOVERNMENT..

  2. H@tari says:

    This is RIDICULOUS! GOB is intentionally thwarting the investigation. What a bunch of corrupt traitors! That’s right, TRAITORS! It is time for the people to put an end to this government . . . and we will if old “peel head” would just call elections. But he won’t. He is going to hold on for as long as he can so he and his bunch of thieves can bleed us until they get the very last drop. And Penner and the rest of them will walk away laughing to the bank.

  3. Joe Blank says:

    I hope the Americans come for Penner, Contreras, Saldivar, Barrow et al. In a civilized country like the U.S.A., the Justice Department would have carted off all the above “honourable gentlemen.” The fact that COLA is spear-heading this process is a testament to the absolute failure of our judicial system. This is what the educated/lawyers/liars do to our system. To them this is just a game they play for a living. For us, it’s the systematic destruction of our democracy. Please Uncle Sam, come for them. I will pay for the aviation fuel.

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