Former government minister John Saldivar accused of “significant corruption” – barred from the USA
Tuesday, November 15th, 2022
On Tuesday, November 15th, the United States (U.S.) Secretary of State Anthony Blinken announced the public designation of a past government official and Area Representative for Belmopan under the United Democratic Party, John Saldivar, for involvement in significant corruption. As a result, Saldivar and his immediate family members are no longer eligible for entry into the U.S. In a social media post, Saldivar said the designation was unjust and called it baseless and malicious.
U.S. Department of State spokesperson Ned Price stated that Saldivar accepted bribes for illegally acquiring Belizean immigration documents. Saldivar is also accused of interfering with public processes for his personal benefit during his tenure as a government official in Belize and reportedly misused a U.S.-donated coast guard boat.
The statement highlights Section 7031(c), which explains how someone, in this case, a past government minister, can be barred from entry into the U.S. The regulation provides that officials of foreign governments and their immediate family members about whom the Secretary of State has credible information of direct or indirect involvement in significant corruption, or a gross violation of human rights, are ineligible for entry into the U.S. The immediate family includes Darlene Karen Salvidar, Johnelle Saldivar, Jevoughn Saldivar, and his minor child.
Price said that corruption acts like this undermine the integrity of Belize’s democratic institutions and fuels perceptions of corruption and impunity, diminishing confidence in governance. Price added that such designations reaffirm the commitment of the U.S. to combating corruption. This critical factor harms the public interest and the country’s economic prosperity and reduces the ability of governments to respond effectively to the needs of the people.
Saldivar used his Facebook account to respond to the notice from the U.S. Department of State. He wrote, “The actions of the United States Department of State today designate me as a corrupt official due to bribery in immigration matters is completely out of left field, baseless, and malicious. As a minister of government, I have conducted myself with absolute probity and integrity. I am at a loss as to why the State Department would want to target me and my family and without providing absolutely any evidence to explain their conclusion. No due process has been observed, no contact has been made with me, no evidence has been provided to me, but the mighty United States has chosen to impugn my character and malign my reputation. I cannot begin to guess what or who may be behind these malicious allegations and who could be so powerful to get the State Department to invoke such a declaration. I am consulting with local attorneys fully cognizant that I will need a U.S. attorney to fight this the United States if I so wish. I am also consulting regarding recourse for my wife and children who have been maliciously persecuted by this action. Some person or persons want me out of Belizean politics, and they seem to have powerful allies in the United States State Department. There will be those who will rejoice at this without any regard to the fact that absolutely no evidence has been presented. But I will not allow these unfounded and malicious allegations to drive me out of politics. My resolve is even stronger now.”
It has been previously reported that Saldivar intends to return to politics as a candidate for the Belmopan constituency in the next general elections.
Saldivar named in U.S. court documents for being part of a fraud case
In January 2020, John Saldivar was named in alleged court documents associated with a fraud court case in Utah, USA. The case involved California businessman Lev Aslan Dermen, alongside Isaiah and Jacob Kingston, both charged with money laundering and fraud. Part of the court documents contains testimony from Jacob Kingston providing evidence against Dermen and alleges that a Belize government official (Saldivar) ‘routinely’ received $25,000 monthly from Dermen. The reported scheme allegedly and illegally managed to obtain over $500 million in tax credits.
John Saldivar admitted having met Dermen in 2013 but rejected being involved in any act of fraud or bribery with Dermen.
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