Did Johnny take a $3 Million bribe? Print E-mail
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Written by Administrator   
Thursday, 08 September 2011 00:00

Leader of the Opposition Johnny Briceno finds himself in quite the pickle as he tries to defend himself from allegations that he took a 3 million dollar bribe from an oil prospecting company in 2007. It is not the first time the allegations have surfaced, this time however it has done so through official correspondence between the U.S. Embassy and the U.S State Department though WikiLeaks.

WikiLeaks is an organization launched in 2006 which publishes submissions of private, secret and classified media from sources who would otherwise be unable to do so. In the case of Belize the leaks are correspondences or cables between the U.S. embassy in Belize and the U.S. Government. In the official documents which were posted on WikiLeaks, the then ambassador to Belize comments on transactions involving the issuing of Production Sharing Agreements to two oil companies.

The then ambassador, Robert Deiter, on October 23rd, 2007, points out that two companies complained to the U.S. embassy. The cable states as follows “ Summary:  Two U.S. energy firms have complained to the Embassy that bribes determine who receives oil exploration contracts in Belize.  One company official who claims to have actually paid a bribe and has electronically recorded numerous conversations, alleges that the Prime Minister's driver/bodyguard was the bag man for the transaction.  Both companies sent strongly worded protest letters and the GOB has responded by threatening legal action and deportation.  End Summary.”

Deiter continues, “Lagoon Resources, a U.S. company with experience in the oil sector…, has alleged that a production contract the firm applied for was awarded to a local business with no oil exploration experience and that the deciding factor was a sizeable bribe paid to Johnny Briceno the then-Minister of Natural Resources.  The firm claimed that the money was routed to the Minister through the purchase of a cable television business. “The cable states that, “A second U.S. company, Miles Tropical Energy (MTE), claims to have actually paid a bribe and produced recordings it claims support the allegations.  MTE principal Allen Saum told Econoff (as well as the press) that he paid US$100,000 to obtain an oil production contract.  Saum stated that he wired funds to Belize and that his Belizean business partner delivered the money in cash to Prime Minister Said Musa's driver/bodyguard.  MTE stated that Musa's son facilitated the exchange and served as local attorney for the company.

Since the surfacing of the WikiLeaks last week it has largely received little attention until hosts of Wave Radio’s Morning Show brought it to the fore. Since then Briceno has been hard pressed to answer the allegations. In Channel Seven’s newscast on Tuesday September 6th Briceno attempted to do so, promising to make available financial records that show his family actually purchased two cable companies through loans and that they were not the proceeds of bribes. For some however, it appears to be a bit too coincidental that the allegations made by Lagoon came precisely at a time when the Briceno family came into possession of the two cable companies in the north.

What is more coincidental is that one of the principals of the local company which was awarded the    PSA which Lagoon was bidding for had purchased at least one of the cable companies which ultimately ended up in the hands of the Briceno family.

For Briceno’s sake we hope that he does make public the loans he received to purchase the cable companies especially since he has leadership aspirations.