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Aug 19, 1998

Barrow tries to link Fonseca to money laundering in Panama

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There’s a play in the sport of American football known as the Hail Mary. Made famous by the University of Notre Dame, it is called by the quarterback when, trailing late in the game and trapped deep in his own territory, his only chance to win lies in flinging the ball deep into his opponent’s end zone and praying that a teammate will somehow catch it for a touchdown. Today the Fiesta Inn was the field of play for a political Hail Mary called by the ruling United Democratic Party. Not surprisingly, Dean Barrow played the role of quarterback. News Five’s Stewart Krohn was in the stands.

There were many of us in the audience of journalists who thought that the dirtiest election campaign in Belizean history couldn’t get any dirtier. We were wrong. At this morning’s press conference, Deputy Prime Minister Dean Barrow, this time wearing the hat of Attorney General, reached deep into his cesspool of abusive partisan power and let fly with a low pitch aimed squarely in the direction of P.U.P. House member Ralph Fonseca. The matter was so important to the national interest, intoned a somber Barrow, that he felt compelled to discuss it before next Thursday’s election. It seemed that on July thirteenth Belizean authorities received a fax from Panamanian judicial police that in the course of an investigation of money laundering the name of Ralph Fonseca had surfaced. Barrow then read the translated document to the press.

Dean Barrow, Attorney General

“The judicial police of Panama to which this O.C.N. is attached is carrying out investigations in connection with a money laundering activities in the course of which the name of Belizean citizen, Ralph Henry Fonseca, date of birth, 9 August, 1949 has surfaced of whom we do not have any other details or references. And for which reason we are therefore seeking all information that your O.C.N. can share concerning the said citizen, such as his passport number, domicile, profession, economic activity and if he has been the object of any previous investigation or if he has any criminal record in your country. The requested information is required with much urgency for which we would appreciate a quick response.”

After responding with details of identity as requested, Barrow said that the only subsequent communication with the Panamanian authorities was via telephone. And that’s where the matter, at least officially ended; not with any charges being brought against Fonseca, not with Fonseca being identified as the target of any investigation, but simply as a person whose “name has surfaced”. I asked the Attorney General whether his announcement was standard procedure. He replied that this was the …

Dean Barrow

“First Interpol request to the Belizean authorities in terms of their investigation of money laundering activities and as well the subject of the request is a public figure who is standing for elections. In those circumstances, I thought that the public had a right to know.”

Q: “You thought that as a politician or as the Attorney General?”

Dean Barrow

“As the Attorney General. As the Attorney General.”

Q: “So if that request was not of a public figure, you would not have seen fit to bring it to the public’s attention?”

Dean Barrow

“It would depend on the citizen that would be involved. If the citizen would not be anybody in the public eye at all, in the normal course we wouldn’t bring it to the public. But any person in public life, any person who is wielding a public position of important, any person certainly who is standing for elected office and who has a possibility of becoming a minister of government, I certainly think, by those circumstances, there’s a right to know.”

Q: “But on a raw request, that is just a simple name has come up in relation with, you would characterize this as a cheap political shot Mr. Barrow?”

Dean Barrow

“Absolutely not, Mr. Krohn. There clearly is more than I am at liberty to say because as I have indicated what is happening is taking place in Panama and I certainly can’t offer second hand or hearsay testimony. And so clearly what I say is circumscribed. But no, I don’t think that this is a communication that has been received in a vacuum, and therefore I am absolutely certain that it was my duty to disclose.”

Q: “Will your party’s propaganda machine try to flesh out the details of this case?”

Dean Barrow

“Well you would have to talk to those who are in charge of propaganda and I don’t fall into that category.”

One is left to wonder if the Attorney General would have called a similar press conference if the name in the fax was Campos or Urbina. Stewart Krohn for 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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