Social Security Chairman speaks on one point five million dollar investment

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Updated: June 30, 2015

A couple of weeks ago we noticed that the Social Security Board publicized a notice of investment in the local newspaper. The notice read that the SSB Board proposed to lend 1.5 million dollars to Diverse Development Limited for quote, “purchase of fertilizers and other inputs”, end of quote. After we got a hold of the company’s EIA report, we noticed that the Manager Director for that company is Horst Schoenhoff. When we did our research, we found out that Schoenhoff, was charged and convicted for six counts of a 29-count indictment for his role in activities of importation, possession and distribution of large quantities of marijuana into the United States from Belize in the 1980’s. Schoenhoff was ordered to serve a term of imprisonment of 15 years and to pay a fifty thousand dollar fine. He had appealed his sentencing and we understand that he successfully did so with each time being re-sentenced. Schoenhoff has also been linked to John Zabaneh- whom the US listed in the Kingpin Act. But did the SSB know this? That’s what we asked the Chairman of the SSB, Doug Singh.

Doug Singh – Chairman, SSB

I don’t think that we do that kind of a security background check to the extent of seeing what somebody did in the 1980s but I believe that that individual owns some minority share in the company. The majority shareholder in the company is Ms. Myrtle Sheran she is also the owner of the properties that are being provided so whether he’s a nominee share holder for practical purposes is neither here nor there. Social Security has a department which is called the investment department that reviews the entire process, it looks at credit risk, viability of a project, it looks at the value of the investment that is being made, it looks at employment that is being created and it looks at the characters of the individuals involved to the extent of going back 10-15 years perhaps not so. In fact if it is not available in Belize’s records because at the end of the day it’s about criminal offences committed in Belize. In fact I think even the Prime Minister mentioned years ago that Mr. Zabaneh has not to his knowledge committed a crime and was convicted in Belize if the US wants to try him let them try him but I don’t understand why that should be your concern. If these people are investors or shareholders of a company

Hipolito Novelo, Love FM News:

“It should be the public’s concern because if these people have convictions in the United States of huge drug trafficking cases

Doug Singh – Chairman, SSB

“ Let me ask you a question if you had conviction for an auto accident 25 years ago should I hold that against you if you wanted to drive a car.

Hipolito Novelo, Love FM News

“You can’t answer my question by asking another question.

Doug Singh – Chairman, SSB

“Of course I can sir because you have to use the same balance yard stick, he wasn’t convicted in Belize one, and two if it was many years ago should you hold that against him today?

Hipolito Novelo, Love FM News

 How do you know that he has reformed ?

Doug Singh – Chairman, SSB

“ I am a part of a movement that we have put a proposal for the decriminalization of marijuana in Belize and it’s based on the same fundamental principle that people who make mistakes in the past ought to be given a chance to be productive citizens going forward. I believe in that fundamentally now I am not saying that that weighed in the capacity beaus I am not aware of Mr. whatever it is he is a 1% shareholder in the company but at the end of the day Social Security Board of directors made a decision on an issue that was based on security, that was based on the industry that it was in, that was based on the productivity of the farms and the impact on the country on a whole and I think that is fair enough.

Hipolito Novelo, Love FM News

“ I’m not saying that he should be disallowed I am saying why is it that SSB did not screen these individuals back to maybe 10-20 years.

Doug Singh – Chairman, SSB

“I am not saying that it wasn’t done. I am saying that I am unaware if it has been done. At the board of directors level there is a department as I mentioned earlier that actually works on the project proposal if there is anything that they feel is detrimental they will include it in the loan package that is not my responsibility at the board level to do so. If there is subsequent discovery it can weigh in as a factor but I am afraid that if you told me that the man was convicted with something thirty years ago it probably would not influence it.