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Aug 25, 2016

Ministers Intervened in Visa Process Repeatedly – and Flouted the Law

Not a smoking gun on corruption?….well the Special Audit during the period 2011-2013, unearthed so many irregularities in the issuance of visas and passports that could not have been carried out by public officers alone without the sanction of ministers. In a nutshell, the investigation found that as many as fifty-five thousand passports were issued without biometrics in the two-year period. In our continuing coverage, Correspondent Aaron Humes has a report on the extent to which ministers disregarded a famous dictum by their boss, the Prime Minister – and flouted the law.

 

Prime Minister Dean Barrow [File: October 10th, 2013]

“I have heard that there are Ministers who are procuring visas for people. I have said pretty much every second Cabinet, if you are doing so, I have no proof, for God’s sake stop it, stop it! That is what will cause the government to fall.”

 

Aaron Humes, Reporting

That famous statement came after the then-Minister of State for Immigration and Nationality, Elvin Penner, had been sacked and in the middle of Minister of State Edmond Castro’s attempts to defend himself against allegations that he facilitated and recommended persons for Belize visas, Castro sued this television station and whistleblower Alvarene Burgess – a lawsuit that went to court and which he later withdrew after damning admissions in court and sharp testimony from Burgess.

Of course, by that time it had become clear that he and many other members of Prime Minister Barrow’s then-administration were in fact intervening in the visa process on behalf of a chosen few.

But according to finding seven point two of the Special Audit Report on Visas by the Audit Department, on page nine of the report, “Since the law does not provide for ministers to intervene in the visa process it was illegal for them to do so.” Neither was it legal for them to request directly of the port commanders at the two major entry points into Belize – the Philip Goldson International Airport and the Northern Border – facilitate individuals with visas.

Yet, according to Table B in the report, seven such requests were made between the twenty-fifth of March and the fifth of September, 2012 – the last was over a month before the Prime Minister’s statement.

We have had long lists of visas facilitated by Castro but in the audit, Castro – who successfully intervened on behalf of Indian nationals Gurjeevan Singh Gill and Parmjit Singh, and Nepalese Milan Thapa and Sunil Pokharel to receive visas to enter Belize at the PGIA on March twenty-fifth and twenty-eighth, 2012, respectively.

Then there is Hugo Patt, Corozal North representative. On August seventeenth, 2012, he intervened on behalf of two Honduran nationals, Elvin Roberto Ramirez Licona, and Jonathan Exeqviel Rodriguez Elvir, writing to the Department in Belmopan. The men only presented their copies of their passports along with the letters of support. All this is very unusual because nationals from Central America do NOT require visas to enter Belize.

And Elvin Penner made one request to Belmopan on behalf of a Paraguayan woman, Katharina Reimer de Schmitt, on September fifth. She only gave in her application and a note from Penner’s desk – there was no passport photo, no passport bio-data page or any other supporting documents. In addition, four Chinese nationals were requested to receive visas at his order, supported by Director Maria Marin, and approved on July sixth, 2013, shy of a month after their applications.

So there you have it. What will the Prime Minister do now?

 

This is what he has said:

 

Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow [File: January 23rd, 2014]

“Don’t make it worse. There is no corruption there; there is a terrible perception, the optics are bad. Man you must…better you shut up, yo know. So Mister Speaker, I say again, the Leader of the Opposition was perfectly correct in raising this issue. I think he went too far in describing it as not what it is; but what it is, is bad enough. And I guarantee you that it stops from now on.”

 

Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.

 

The Prime Minister noted today that the police are of course welcome to lay charges based on the report against any Minister or other person and if anyone can point to such evidence then feel free to bring it to him.

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3 Responses for “Ministers Intervened in Visa Process Repeatedly – and Flouted the Law”

  1. Steve says:

    The main thief trying to protect his 40 thieves.

  2. Timber says:

    All he’s concerned about is his party and his legacy. You heard what he said in another interview; “that’s what makes governments fall”. He is dictatorial, narcissistic , and he and his family have robbed this country blind. Belize will be in such and economic decline when they’re out of power, the next government, along with assistance with the US should seize all their bank accounts they have established overseas. Da good fu unno cruffy.

  3. spike says:

    Immigration is almost as bad as the Dept. of Lands and Surveys!

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