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Dec 6, 2013

Another look at Elvin Penner

Almost three months ago, news surfaced that UDP Minister of State Elvin Penner had facilitated nationality status and a Belizean passport for Wonhong Kim. Kim had never set foot in Belize, and was actually incarcerated in Taiwan when his nationality and passport were issued. Although the documents proved beyond any reasonable doubt that Penner was directly involved, to date he has been the subject of no investigation. In fact, he has been relatively untouched even as the scandal has swirled around him. But while Wonhong Kim is the name Penner will rue for all time, the fallen Minister of State was involved in a lot more than that. Mike Rudon has another look at an institutionalized immigration racket.


Mike Rudon, Reporting

These are the documents which likely were the direct cause of Elvin Penner’s fall from grace – a nationality certificate and a passport recommendation for South Korean national Wonhong Kim. Penner signed as recommender, claiming that he was a personal friend of Kim. And he signed as Minister on the nationality certificate. He was able to do so because he was given the authority by the Prime Minister.


Dean Barrow (File: October 10, 2013)

Dean Barrow

“He took over and he moved with great alacrity to do things. A problem developed because at that time Penner had not been given the authority as I recollect to sign nationality certificates. Penner complained to me over and over again that he felt as though he were a fifth wheel to a wagon. That he was Minister of State but that he had absolutely no authority. And he asked that he be brought more into the picture. That his position as a duly elected representative and as a constitutionally appointed minster of state in the ministry be respected. He particularly asked that he be allowed to sign that he’d be given the power to sign nationality certificate.”


It’s very likely that Elvin Penner had a very good reason for pleading for the authority to sign – likely many good reasons, the reasons that fold and can be stashed away. He was given the authority to sign and sign he did…on all manner of nationality certificates long before the name Wonhong Kim ever surfaced. Here’s Penner’s signature on nationality certificates for Zhongxiong Yang and Shuzi Hu. Remember we went looking for these new citizens to welcome then, but the address listed on the documents was an empty lot. (FILE October 17, 2013) And then there was Jalal Ebrahimi, a Dubai national who had his nationality certificate signed by Elvin Penner. His address is listed ambiguously as South End, Corozal Town. Our inquiries have found no such person known in the area. And there were many more. In fact, if the numbers listed on the nationality certificates are taken in order, Penner signed more than two hundred and eighty nationality certificates in two weeks.


And Elvin Penner was also a champion multi-tasker. When not busy recommending good friends for passports and signing nationality certificates for persons who cannot be found, Penner was also recommending visas for Chinese nationals hand over fist. His name has come up repeatedly, week after week in memos written from C.E.O. Candelaria Saldivar to Director of Immigration Maria Marin – lists of Chinese nationals recommended by Penner. It’s amazing that the former Minister of State was able to find time to do anything else – in one week in June he facilitated seventeen visas for Chinese nationals. Between May and July, Penner recommended visas for forty-eight Chinese nationals. We assume he was personal friends with them, on the same basis as Wonhong Kim perhaps.


So where does the Prime Minister stand on this issue? We guess he stands wherever is convenient at the time. On October tenth, 2013, this was his stance.


Dean Barrow (FILE October 10, 2013)

“I have also said that I understand that politicians have friends and I know that processes can be slow. If a minister says ‘I did ask the Immigration Department to bring some speed to the processing of an application for a visa for a friend,’ – it is entirely legitimate as minister. I satisfied myself that the application for the visa was in order. I can’t say that that is not to happen, but if I hear you intervene 10 times and I hear you intervene 20 times – what I am to think? Except that you’re involved in a hustle. If you hang out with Ali Baba you must be one of the 40 thieves.”


But on November twenty, seventh, 2013, he stood in a different spot entirely.


Dean Barrow (File: November 27, 2013)

“…man what you have produced is in my view not even remotely close to a smoking gun. On the face of it Ministers are entitled or perhaps even obliged to write letters of recommendations.”


And like we told you, with all the visa recommendations Ministers were doing, it’s a marvel that they found time to do anything else. Mike Rudon 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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8 Responses for “Another look at Elvin Penner”

  1. Joe Blank says:

    Dean Barrow, the astute and well-learned attorney, did not consider the possibility that Penner wanted to have the power to sign because he wanted to hustle? If he wanted to practice his penmanship, he could have gone back to grade-school. I have said this before and Channel 5 has coined the phrase properly: institutionalized immigration racket. The ‘institution’ includes area reps, state ministers, and cabinet ministers with crooked surrogates. So, everyone here is frantically trying to stuff the shit back into the horse. No wonder they all stink, guilty!! Crooks! They are protecting Penner and Castro because they need to protect themselves!

  2. Ali Baba, pimp of Belize Beano says:

    So how much is the Taiwanese ambassador involved?
    aware but looked the other way?

  3. Rod says:

    The question you should be asking is why no one is in jail why why is no one in jail.

  4. Love says:

    It seems all the ministers were travelling to China. They all made so many friends that I am sure even if questioned today they wouldn’t be able to even pronounce some of these people names. It was the dollars that was passing hands. They were using their office for monetary gain and that should never have happened. To say a prisoner is a citizen of Belize is an attempt for that person not to face the court for his criminal behavior, and that is an attempt to obstruct justice. Of course he was Penner’s buddy, they played marbles together, and lived in invisible addresses in Belize. We are so dumb to believe everything, or, that is how this government would want us to be. Dumb, stupid and sucking our fingers….

  5. Patriot says:

    Yes, Love, certain Belizeans are “Dumb, stupid and sucking our fingers….” as you say. Those who embraced the ACB fever a couple years ago. They were spitting in the air, so you know what is happening now. They have their tails between their legs. The biggest ones are Melvin Hulse etc.

  6. JudgeImNot says:

    Love, you said that right: “Dumb, stupid and sucking our fingers”,
    ,,. But more than the government, there are other powers involved in making this scandal a big smoke curtain to make Belize citizens overlook other issues that are much more important in the long run.
    Maybe we all will find out some day, when somebody confess, or a hard proof is found, or even realizing how this case and all the fluffy noise made around it was well played on all of us.

  7. Guerra says:

    Everybody knew Chinese people and had Chinese friends. Caretakers, CEO’s, Ministers…so…can we recover from them, all the salaries they have collected, because they were making more than quadruple that amount under the table?

  8. ceo says:

    Wonhung Kim huh? What about Twohung Kim or Welhung Low or Hungtoo Low. These are all well fitting names because Castro, Barrow, Penner (three words with a ring especiall in this order) have the cahones to behave in a manner that is less that honorable and them the public was lied to!

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