Belize City Mayor to face criminal charges over missing money

BELMOPAN, Belize, September 30, 2009 – The Mayor of Belize City will face charges related to the misappropriation of BZ$275,000 (US$139,233) belonging to the City Council.

Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Cheryl Lyn Branker-Taitt said this week that she has instructed police to arrest Mayor Zenaida Moya-Flowers on charges that she failed to comply with City Council regulations.

Moya-Flowers is currently on maternity leave after delivering a baby less than three weeks ago and it is unclear when she will be detained. If convicted, she could spend up to one year in jail or ordered to pay a fine.

The Council’s Finance Director Dwane Davis and his assistant Kiran Bhudrani are also expected to face the courts. They had been suspended while investigations were conducted into the financial scandal.

The initial probe, carried out by specially appointed Financial Overseer Patrick Tillett, found a practice referred to as “under depositing”. That involved the use of cash collected by the Council to pay bills, but reporting the money as funds being banked.
A subsequent forensic audit conducted by Auditor General Edmund Zuniga concluded that the Mayor and senior management disregarded protocol and left the door open for illegality.