Area Representative Edmund Castro withdrew his case against whistle blower Alvarine Burgess and Great Belize Productions-Channel Five. His lawyer, Senior Counsel Rodwell Williams requested a discontinuance of the case to Justice Courtenay Abel which was subsequently granted. This case has not only been argued in courts but in the public through the media. As you may recall, during the Penner-Passport Scandal, Burgess appeared on news station, Channel Five, making damning accusations against Castro. The allegation was that she paid Castro two thousand dollars for each visa recommendation, a statement that Castro vehemently denied. Throughout the case, Castro proclaimed his innocence and the day in which Justice Abel should have ruled on the matter, Castro’s attorney, withdrew the lawsuit. His attorney, Senior Counsel Rodwell Williams shared why.
SC Rodwell Williams, Attorney for Edmund Castro
“Mr. Castro feels that having brought the matter to court he has been vindicated. The claim was made against a friend of his who has been a friend for over 20 years and he brought the matter and he felt that at this stage he felt vindicated rather than to seek to continue the claim in relation to bringing this friendship to an end in a sour note and therefore the matter is discontinued.”
“We noticed you and Mr. Castro speaking on the back veranda and it seemed that he was not happy with the decision to discontinue.
SC Rodwell Williams
“No further comment.”
“You accept that this is vindication?
SC Rodwell Williams
“It is his right to discontinue and that is what he has exercised.”
“But did you suggest to him that it was prudent to discontinue at this point?”
SC Rodwell Williams
“That is between me and my client thank you.
Burgess shared how she feels about the outcome of the case.
Alvarine Burgess, Whistleblower
“Surprised and disappointed, very disappointed because I came to court, I was dragged to court, I swore on the Bible I told the truth to have Mr. Castro at the end knowing that he had a losing case could just back out and withdraw so I was surprised and disappointed.”
“Mr. Castro’s lawyer told us that he did it and because he felt that his client’s name had been cleared and that he had done enough damage to you as his friend so he withdrew his case because of you.”
Alvarine Burgess, Whistleblower
“They withdrew because they knew that Mrs. Alverene Burges came and told the truth and they had a losing case, I never withdrew anything they were the ones who withdrew because they know that they had a losing case.
Throughout the case Burgess was represented by Attorney Anthony Sylvestre who shared that Burgess told the truth from the very beginning.
Attorney Anthony Sylvestre
“With all due respect to Mr. Williams the entire country and nation knows that that is far from the truth. The truth that Ms. Burgess accurately stated a while ago and Mr. Smith pointed out is that they basically knew that the game was up that you would have written in a judgment scathing remarks and scathing evaluation and assessment of what took place in court. Once that is done that becomes a record for all eternity and so they conveniently took this tactical decision so as they have started to do already try to suggest that “oh we did that because of x,y,z.” So I’m not surprised by that particular response and you’ll hear much more similar outrageous responses as to why they withdrew the case but the reality is as anyone who is objective and can see that the conduct and demeanor of Minister Castro in court left much to be desired. His statements and admissions in court in particular his admission that yes he did participate in this Visa transaction, he admitted that, and so it was a matter of simply the judge just upholding what actually transpired in court and so as to avoid that they just simply discontinued the matter. The fact of the matter is that Ms. Burgess was telling the truth, Mr. Castro was seen in court to be evasive, was seen in court to be far from telling the truth and at the end of the day a judge would have made a decision in our favor and so they saved themselves of that.”
This afternoon, Great Belize Productions/Channel Five sent out a release in which it stated that “the public has a right to be informed and the media has a responsibility to be vigilant and expose corruption. It is also a huge victory for whistleblowers who bravely expose wrongdoings by public officials, thereby holding those public officials to account and strengthening our democracy”. Great Belize Productions, Channel Five was represented by Senior Counsel Godfrey Smith.
SC Godfrey Smith
“I suppose that is an attempt to salvage the rapidly sliding reputation of Mr. Castro. No, he brought the claim and at the last minute decided to withdraw the claim and pay costs you don’t do that at this stage, you don’t withdraw saying “well I think my client has been sufficiently vindicated.” and be stuck with close to $30,000.00 in costs which they are gonna have to pay. So basically it’s a situation where they realized that it was the end of the road for Minster Castro, he had foolishly brought a claim that had not the ghost of a chance of succeeding, embarrassed himself in court, made a number of admissions which you will recall he basically admitted that yes, there was a Visa hustle on, yes his office was being used to facilitate this Visa hustle, yes his signature was on it, yes it could be perceived that he was involved and engaged in a Visa hustle, it was wrong if he had a chance he wouldn’t do it over again. The only thing he refused to admit was that he’d taken money and at that point it was plain to be seen that the game was up. He had been exposed for what he really was and what the media says quite rightly that he had been doing so both Channel 5 and Alverine Burgess have been totally vindicated. Of course we are disappointed that the general public, Mr. Castro’s constituencies will not have the pleasure of reading about in the judgment what an awful liar and he has allowed his office to be used for purposes that have been improper we will be deprived of that judgment but clearly I think it is vindication enough for both Channel 5 and all media houses in Belize. I think that Alverine Burgess should be congratulated for boldly stepping forward as a whistle blower from the very beginning she was insistent that she was speaking the truth, that she knew what she was talking about, asked by talk show host Dickie Bradley whether she was prepared to go to court, call witnesses and defend herself she firmly and unhesitatingly said yes and that you will recall is exactly what she did.”
Before taking her story to the media, Burgess consulted several attorneys including Dickie Bradley who shared his legal opinion on today’s outcome.
Attorney Richard Bradley
“After giving her legal advice and saying to her “Ms. Ivorine to me your story is impeccable, it’s absolutely believable and I am prepared to go on the television and risk being sued for the matter because I believe what you are saying and this is an issue of national importance but you may face a law suit. This is a minister of government who are saying you have no reputation, you have done wrong things and I gave you money for visas and so on and so forth.” She said “I am prepared to stand up for what I know is the truth. When finally it came down to that she received document that she’s being sued. To libel a minister of government is serious matter you will pay up to $50,000.00 he is a minister now in government where he is sworn to do certain things, where he must abide by certain standards where like Caesar’s wife he is to be above reproach and this lady from Dangriga Stan Creek was not intimidated, she did not say “oh let’s see if we can work something.” She didn’t bring Mr. Castro to court, Mr.Castro brought her to court to say “you said things that are not true and I will tell the judge that you have said things that are not true so the judge could punish you.” and now that the trial is 95% over who withdrew what? Mrs. Burgess didn’t withdraw anything. All the evidence is in, the conduct and the behavior of the person who brought Ms. Burgess to court is something we would have wanted to see that judgement, there is no getting out of that. So don’t let anyone spin this thing. The person who brought this lady and she was up and down on that highway with her husband and her family she didn’t withdraw anything. It was just before the judge said “you don’t have a claim against this lady, you don’t have a reputation to be damaged, you did what she said you did.” they withdrew. Big respect to Mrs. Burgess and big respect to the media too because what is going on is there is an attempt to intimidate people, you saw Melvin Hulse get on the media his tape recording was put out and he is saying all kinds of things that is going on. You know what was the first thing that was said, the same thing Castro did. You repeat it and see what will happen to you. She was not afraid. Like she told us just now “Mr. Anthony and Mr. Bradley, I took that Bible in my hand because everything that I said I knew that it was true.”
Burgess says she will consult with her attorney to decide whether or not she will sue Castro for damage to her reputation.