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Jan 23, 2020

An Official Exhibit List in the Case of Lev Dermen; John Saldivar is Named

There is new information tonight in the case of Lev Dermen, an Armenian national with U.S. and Belize citizenship that is causing tremors inside the U.D.P. as it heads to a leadership convention on February ninth.  Dermen is the accused mastermind in a scheme that defrauded the Internal Revenue Service of the United States of more than five hundred million dollars in tax credits. He sits in a prison in Utah awaiting trial which is in a few days.  But here in Belize, the name of Minister John Saldivar is embroiled in yet another scandal.  The issue has been bubbling for two weeks and now there is a long list of exhibits to be presented to Judge Jill Parrish, which includes text messages between Minister Saldivar and one of Dermen’s former business partners.  Jacob Kingston is also to testify against Dermen, making allegations of bribery of government officials here and in the U.S. as part of a wider pattern of corrupt activities.  Here is a first report with Isani Cayetano.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The trial of Lev Dermen gets underway on January twenty-seventh in the U.S. District Court of Utah. The Armenian/American businessman was issued with a Belizean nationality certificate under the name Levon Termendzhyan in 2013. The case is receiving international coverage because it involves massive corruption in tax credits spanning the United States, Russia, Panama, and Turkey. Dermen, the highly connected defendant, is accused of money laundering, bribery, fraud, and a slew of other offenses amounting to five hundred and eleven million U.S. dollars. At the centre of the case is Washakie Renewable Energy, a biofuel enterprise.
Now, one of Dermen’s former partners, Jacob Kingston, has taken a plea deal and is providing information that will be presented as evidence during the trial. Kingston will testify that a government official from Belize was routinely paid twenty-five thousand dollars in cash monthly by Dermen. When he could not make the payments himself, Kingston would make the payments on Dermen’s behalf. In February 2014, on at least one occasion, upon Dermen’s request, Kingston arranged for a cash payment through an associate. In June 2013, Kingston electronically wired funds to another Belizean government official at Dermen’s request.
Dermen is believed to have used his connections in Belize in an effort to seek an appointment as honorary consul for Belize in Las Vegas, but the United States rejected that application. Dermen is also said to have been pursuing an ambassadorial appointment in Turkey.  That too did not happen, despite at least three ministers pushing for it and notwithstanding Dermen’s wide circle in Belize.
But back to the court papers, it is a complicated matter, with a labyrinth of documents on the scheme involving Dermen, along with Jacob Kingston and his brother Isaiah, both polygamists in Utah. The list of exhibits to be presented in court include: text messages between Jacob Kingston and John Saldivar in which Kingston “will lay the foundation for the texts he sent to and received from this particular Belizean associate of the defendant” that being Dermen.
There were also email correspondences from one Amy Peterson to Jacob Kingston regarding banking application for Lions Gaming in Belize. We have been able to confirm that Lions Gaming is a company registered in Belize as an online gambling business.
The connection to Belize is being used to establish the wide scale pattern of bribery and money laundering.  There is more, but that is what we have sifted through so far from a trove of documents. So, Minister Saldivar’s name is now documented as part of text messages to be brought to trial where further details are expected to emerge on Dermen’s connections in cabinet.

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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