This morning in the Belmopan Courtroom, the case against former Minister of State Elvin Penner was thrown out on the first day in trial. The private prosecution was brought against Penner by COLA on passport and nationality offenses. Now, today, Penner is free and cleared of all charges in the Immigration scandal but the prosecution, COLA, was outraged by the decision. It has been a tedious matter for COLA which, despite scrutiny, pressed on with the case. President of COLA Geovanni Bracket said that despite the road blocks they encountered in the process and the turn of events, they are thankful to at least have been able to reach this far. Despite the court’s decision, though, an appeal may be in order. COLA’s Attorney Kareem Musa explained what transpired this morning in the courtroom.
Kareem Musa- COLA Attorney
"Mr. Brackett was able to take the stand to testify against Mr. Penner and basically what we did is that we lay the foundation putting it in a historical context of what has transpired so far starting firstly with the order of the Supreme Court in relation to the Commissioner of Police ordering him by way of writ of mandamus to do his job, to carry out his duties and investigate this matter. So we started with that premise and we then built up on the foundation thereafter showing the correspondence that we have made several attempts, not just one, but several attempts to the Commissioner of Police to try to obtain the investigative file, but of course it has ended up in futility as our head, our titular head of the judiciary. The Attorney General should be ashamed of himself; he is the titular head of this country when it comes to the judiciary. It is a disgrace to have a system where the system is not looking out for the interest of this nation - It is not. What happened after Mr. Brackett laid the foundation we then made an application pursuant to section 30 and I don't think that there is any clearer law that exists that shows that in fact the Commissioner of Police ought to have been summoned to come to court today."
Here is a reaction from the complainant Giovanni Bracket.
Giovanni Bracket- Complainant
“I think what has occurred here today what has been illustrated we’ve seen one of the greatest acts of collaborators against justice. We’ve seen how various entities have refused to give up evidence. What we now will do at COLA is to consult with our attorney on further direction. Most people didn't even believe that Penner would have shown up to court much less couple months later were back and forth in court. I know that it has been struck out here on the first trial day and yes, it is a sense of disappointment, but I think what that really does say the decision and the whole scenario from start to finish - what I think it does is a bigger discouragement to the people of Belize because we've seen how justice has been denied by every entity in coming here to try to get a fair trial against Mr. Penner. Mr. Penner - the case might have struck out today, but that isn't evidence that in the court of public opinion he is not guilty."
The former Minister of State with responsibility for Immigration was accused of vouching for the fitness of South Korean applicant Kim Won Hong to receive a nationality certificate when he knew the statement he was making was false and contrary to the Nationality Act.
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