Empty Vessels & Full Pockets
Saturday, February 11, 2017, 15:55
It is now exactly 100 days since the Ministry of Natural Resources announced that a letter was written to Andre Vega and Sharon Pitts demanding the return of $400,000 ‘gifted’ to them by Andre’s father and then Minister of Natural Resources and Deputy Prime Minister, the very dishonourable Gaspar Vega.
It is understood that neither Pitts nor Vega responded to those letters, if indeed those letters were even delivered to them. It is likely that the letter shown to the media was just a prop, and nothing will ever come of this unfortunate, corrupt event in which taxpayers were robbed almost a million dollars. The new and very easily led Minister of Natural Resources has said nothing about the return of those monies. She has said nothing about any ongoing investigation into the Vega-led compensation scam (an investigation allegedly launched by her predecessor Vanessa Retreage) and she has said nothing about corruption in that department. To put a fine point to it, she has said nothing, which is probably as directed by her political boss Dean Oliver.
It is now exactly 87 days since the bogus press conference at which Dean Barrow lied to the Belizean people about the departure of Vanessa Retreage. Ms. Retreage had come under fire from senior UDP Ministers as her digging threatened to expose real rot in the department. She was even directly threatened, allegedly by the UDP’s former senator and full-time thug Juliet Thimbriel. At that press conference, more REAL evidence of Gaspar Vega’s blatant corruption was revealed – more than 50 land documents, clear as day.
What Gaspar Vega did, in a nutshell, was this. He identified a large parcel of prime property in Carmelita – 1600 acres. He then, as Minister of Natural Resources, gave that land, parcelled out in 25 acre plots, to selected cronies and employees for a pittance. Those cronies and employees then immediately turned around and “sold” that land to Gaspar Vega’s wife, Marilene and his brother, German Vega. In the final move, the 1600 acres became Gaspar Vega’s farm in the Orange Walk district. There was no real subterfuge involved – the corruption is easily followed from Point A to Point B.
When shown the documents and asked if he didn’t think the evidence at least warranted further investigation of some sort, Mr. Barrow said – “I don't know that there is any need for an investigation. If the facts are as you say…then that is to be condemned out of hand. There's no need for any investigation. All I'm saying is we are prepared to accept what is wrong and we are prepared to ensure that consequences attach to the wrongdoer. That is the difference between this administration and the last administration."
All hot air! It has been 87 days and nothing…not a word, and certainly no “consequences attached to the wrongdoer.”
There is another document in this week’s issue of the Belize Times, a land transaction which occurred in September, 2015, just before general elections and Vega being stripped of the Lands portfolio. That document shows that Gaspar Vega, as Minister of Natural Resources, transferred 17.84 acres of crown land to his brother, German Vega, who is a millionaire. For 17.84 acres of prime crown land, German Vega was asked to pay $800. That works out to a little over $44 per acre – prime land. Just for context, one acre of land can be subdivided into 10 house lots. So 17.84 acres could yield close to 180 house lots at a time when normal Belizeans cannot get a piece of land. And this millionaire, German Vega, paid $800 for it.
There are many more documents which have surfaced, and many more which are surfacing, but Dean Oliver is silent. The Ministry of Natural Resources has gone into sleep mode. Nothing! Nada! Whatever happened to the Ron J situation which was exposed over 100 days ago where a company was ‘compensated’ $1M shortly after paying a little over $6,000 for a parcel of swampland in Placencia? It happened, and as far as the government is concerned, it is done. Let’s move on.
The Belizean people lost tens of millions of dollars in a nefarious scheme in which then Minister of Natural Resources Gaspar Vega was the main player. But we are supposed to just let it go. Thousands and thousands of acres of prime property were taken by Gaspar Vega and his family, close and extended. Thousands of acres…and we are supposed to just let it go.
In any civilized, democratic country operating under the rule of law, Vega and many of his family members would be incarcerated, their ill-gotten gains and assets stripped from them and returned to the Belizean people. Gaspar Vega is a thief, a traitor. And we are supposed to just let it go.
Dean Oliver is a consummate empty vessel, a man of rhetoric and nothing else. To realize that he came into office on an anti-corruption platform, a self-proclaimed man of sterling character, and is now the leader of the most corrupt bunch of politicians to ever disgrace this nation is nothing short of incredible. And he does nothing. To Mr. Barrow, it may be distasteful, but not corrupt. To Mr. Barrow it looks bad, but there is no evidence of corruption. What a very little man Mr. Barrow turned out to be.
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