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08BELMOPAN503 2008-12-04 22:22:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Belmopan
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1. (U) Amidst cries from a small crowd shouting, "leave our daddy
alone", Said Musa, former Prime Minister of Belize, entered the
courtroom today to face a single charge of theft of USD 10 million
alleged to have occurred in December 2007 (reftel). Over 40 police
officers were dispatched to the scene in what was a rather slim
turnout of fewer than 50 People's United Party (PUP) supporters to
what was called by some a political funeral. Musa, still the Area
Representative for the Ft. George district, looked only slightly
more somber than usual as he faced the charge.

2. (U) The last case of political wrong-doing that actually went to
trial was concluded in 1997, when Foreign Minister V.H. Courtenay
was acquitted of criminal charges for theft and misappropriation.
More recent matters, including the case of theft in early 2008
against former Minister of Health Jose Coye, failed to pass through
preliminary hearings. A top reporter in Belize suggested, "it was
unlikely this trial would result in a conviction since the courts
couldn't even prosecute the former PM's press secretary for a stick
of weed", referring to one recent case of political impropriety.
The picture of imbalance in Belize's justice system was made clear
when seven defense attorneys approached the bench confronted by a
single prosecutor representing the GOB.

3. (U) After his arraignment, the former PM said this was a case of
"political victimization". His trial will commence January 9, 2009,
and he was released on USD 50,000 bail.

4. (U) Former Minister of Home Affairs and Musa's right-hand man,
Ralph Fonseca, will be arraigned Friday, December 5, for a similar
charge, also in Belmopan where the theft allegedly occurred.

5. (SBU) Comment: Post believes that the GOB will not prevail in
this case -- the judiciary just does not have enough resources to
successfully prosecute a powerful figure such as Musa. However, by
bringing the case forward, the United Democratic Party (UDP) has
shown a good faith effort to fulfill a campaign promise to fight
corruption and maintain transparent government. The publicity
around this trial may also bolster the GOB's case against the Belize
Bank in an attempt to retrieve the stolen funds. End Comment.