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Nov 4, 2005

El-Sayed could be tried en absentia

Story PictureDespite yet another adjournment in the Belize City Supreme Court this morning, there is news to report tonight regarding the infamous case of passport scandal. Sitting in the dock this morning was fifty-eight year old Belize City businessman Jabor “Gabby” Affif, but Hassan El Sayed, the man charged jointly with him on more than a hundred and twenty counts of forging official documents was no where to be seen. El-Sayed’s attorneys, senior counsel Edwin Flowers and Michel Chebat, did not offer any indication of their client’s whereabouts to Justice Adolph Lucas. In his submission, Director of Public Prosecutions Kirk Anderson informed the court that contrary to his previous statements, the crown would be applying to continue with proceedings against El Sayed en absentia. It is our understanding that Anderson had initially maintained that the law did not permit trial if the accused is absent. However today, Anderson has changed his mind. As a result, Justice Lucas has set January eighteenth as the date for both sides to present arguments on whether to proceed with the case against El Sayed. As part of his ruling this morning, Justice Lucas also ordered that Affif and the person who signed his surety to report the court on Monday to sign a new bail form and be briefed on the current status of the case. Affif and El Sayed stand accused of multiple counts of forging official documents, namely passport applications, facilitating the forgery of those applications, and abetment to uttering the forged passport applications. Outside the court this morning, several persons scheduled to testify had gathered, including former head of Immigration, Paulino Castellanos, Police Commissioner Gerald Westby, Inspector Bernard Lino, Justice of the Peace Max Santos, former News Five reporter Ann-Marie Williams and cameraman George Tillett. Williams was working at Channel Five in July of 2002 when she and Tillett shot an interview with J.P. Max Santos who allegedly signed fraudulent passport applications at the request of Gabby Affif. While El-Sayed is being defended by Edwin Flowers and Michel Chebat, Affif is represented in court by attorneys Simeon Sampson and Ellis Arnold. In the three years since the scandal rocked the Immigration Department, so far only a store clerk from Odette’s, Therese Cabral, has been found guilty of any wrongdoing.

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