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Feb 7, 2020

2012: Lev Dermen and the Belize Connection

In Salt Lake City this week, Jacob Kingston revealed that accused fraudster Lev Dermen became interested in Belize in 2012.  Living a high lifestyle, the accused fraudster would wine and dine many personalities, including government officials, agents, mayors, ministers and sheriffs. One such telling image of Dermen posing with his Belizean friends has surfaced; it includes a number of well-known associates of Minister Saldivar.  The photo all leads to Monday’s trial, when Kingston will testify of Dermen’s activities in Belize in 2013, and the famous text messages. Here is Hipolito Novelo with a report.   


Hipolito Novelo, Reporting

In an explosive testimony on Thursday, fraudster Jacob Kingston dropped the named of former P.U.P. politician and Minister Ralph Fonseca. During the prosecution’s questioning regarding Lev Dermen’s connection to Belize and Turkey, Kingston was asked about several meetings and international trips he made in 2012.  During the afternoon’s session, the prosecution wanted to get a sense of how Dermen spent money, how he carried himself and with whom Dermen associated with.

When the IRS sent Kingston a notice of audit on Washakie Renewable Energy regarding multiple fake claims for tax credits, Kingston sought the advice of his business partner Lev Aslan Dermen. Dermen comforted Kingston by telling him not to worry because he had friends in Government who can help. Dermen, according to Kingston, referred to these friends as “his boys” and his “umbrella.”

According to Kingston, Dermen would wine and dine government officials, agents, mayors, ministers and sheriffs. When asked by the prosecution what he meant by ministers, Kingston replied that they had dinner and done business with ministers in Belize.  This picture here shows Jacob Kingston and Lev Dermen. They are seen posing in front of a private jet with Belmopan Mayor Khalid Belisle, Douglas Grant and Jason Neal, associates of John Saldivar.

Further into the testimony of Kingston, the prosecution began establishing Dermen’s ties to Belize. Kingston told the prosecution that on October 2nd 2012, he along with Dermen and Zubair Kazi travelled to Belize. Kingston said he was invited to look at some projects. Kingston described Kazi as Lev Dermen’s friend in Belize. Kazi is reportedly the General Manager of Paradise Shrimp Farm located on the Coastal Road.

Kingston also spoke of a December 2012 meeting in Miami, Florida. He said that a minister from Belize was present. Kingston also told prosecutors that in December 2012, he along with Lev Dermen travelled to Belize several times to talk about potential projects. The fraudsters were looking to set up an online and physical casino. Kingston said that he bought a warehouse which would house the business, using the tax credit funds. When asked who did he buy the warehouse from, Kingston replied that the warehouse was under the name of Ralph Fonseca, who Kingston described as the Minister of Finance in Belize. Fonseca was not the minister of finance or a minister at all in 2012. In fact, Fonseca held that post briefly from 2003 to 2004. Kingston said that they were also seeking to establish fuel depots in Belize and remodel a port.

Lev Dermen was a big spender. Kingston recalled one of the first time that he met the Turkish businessman. According to Kingston, Dermen who was always surrounded by bodyguards wrote him a cashier cheque for more than one million dollars. In fact, Dermen took him for lunch as a restaurant where Dermen bought all the lobsters available. Also, Dermen shuttled Kingston and is wife in his private jet.

Kingston’s Thursday’s testimony only covered the period ending in 2012. The prosecution told the court that they would proceed on Monday with more of Dermen’s connection to Belize, going into 2013 which is when the text messages were allegedly sent to Minster of National Security John Saldivar. It is expected that the prosecution will establish how the monies received from the tax fraud were used in Belize through various means including bribery to ministers and government officials. Reporting from Salt Lake City, Utah. Hipolito Novelo News Five.

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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