What does Lev Dermen’s conviction mean for John Saldivar?
Lev Dermen … he was found guilty after a seven-week trial of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering and money laundering; he was sentenced to forty years in US prison. You may recall that Dermen’s money laundering activities involved handouts to John Saldivar, the former Minister of Police who currently serves as the UDP Standard Bearer for Belmopan. In November last year, Saldivar was designated by the United States for, ‘his involvement in significant corruption’. His US visa has since been cancelled and he is now persona non grata to the United States. But could there be further repercussions for Saldivar. We asked Minister of Home Affairs, Kareem Musa, to weigh in on the matter.
Kareem Musa, Minister of Home Affairs: “As you know the offense that Lev Dermen was convicted for in terms of funneling proceeds from taxes some of it coming to Belize that’s an offense that took place in the United States and hence because of that jurisdiction he was convicted there. I could fully understand the concern by the United States when it comes to where those funds went and who were the ultimate beneficiaries because as you know one of the current standard bearers for the United Democratic Party is one of those beneficiaries that has been ascertained already. And so you could see why the United States would take the step of designating Mr.Saldivar because he has admitted to receiving these funds, these illegal funds from Lev Dermen. And so in terms of an offense whether this considered and offense by US standards we’re not certain because they would have to levy charges against Mr.Saldivar. So he received those funds here in Belize. There are other offenses I think they refer to it as smurfing in the United States where you divide up the proceeds so that it does not amount to $10,000 US and several people then bring it into the country. I know that that is something that is being looked at in the United States but in terms of receiving those funds here we would have to rely heavily on the information coming out of the United States and their investigation to see if there is anything that we can charge Mr.Saldivar for here because like I said yes he was designated by the US for offenses that took place in the US and again he is ultimately the beneficiary of illegal proceeds from the US so we have to look at it from that standpoint. I know that the police currently is undergoing an investigation regarding the use of Coast Guard assets that is something that the police department has been putting together a file and I think there is even a recording of Mr.Saldivar where he admits to utilizing the coast guard vessel for personal purposes, taking out Mr.Dermen that sort of thing so those are different things that the department is looking at but like all things you can rest assured there’s no witch hunt here. I think it is out in the open Mr.Saldivar has not denied taking party in receiving these funds, these illegal funds from Lev Dermen so certainly that raises major concern for us in this country and it definitely raised concerns in the United States so much so that they had to designate him because those illegal funds came to Belize.”
Upon Saldivar’s designation, he responded via social media indicating that he was at a loss as to the US State Department was targeting him without any evidence or due process. He had indicated that he would be working at clearing his name.