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Jan 14, 2004

Hassan returns, hit with 119 charges

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It was one of those rare days in the news business when even the most hard-bitten pundit would be forced to admit the possibility that some form of justice may indeed exist in Belize. The evidence of today’s near miraculous revelation took the form of three unrelated events: the arrest of a key figure in the immigration scandal, a very public apology by the Police Commissioner, and the charging a police constable in the running over of a cyclist. We’ll lead off our coverage with a major break in the immigration scandal.

This afternoon, fifty-two year old Hassan El Sayed was escorted to Belize City Magistrate’s Court to face one hundred and nineteen charges of abetment in connection with the now infamous passport scandal that rocked the Immigration Department in July 2002. It took Chief Magistrate Herbert Lord more than an hour to read all the charges, stating in effect that on no precise date El Sayed facilitated the possession of one hundred and nineteen forged official documents, namely Belizean passport applications. El Sayed also faces joint charges of abetment of possession of forged official documents with another Belize City businessman, Jabor “Gabby” Affif. Both men have been listed as wanted since mid-August 2003; the date arrest warrants were issued in Belize City. At that time, police maintained that neither El Sayed nor Affif could be located in Belize and numerous reports indicated that both men had taken up residence in the United States and/or Lebanon. Affif is still on the lam, but this morning, represented by attorneys Michel Chebat and Edwin Flowers, El Sayed turned himself in to authorities. The charges against El Sayed and Affif stem from an investigation launched in August 2002 after local media revealed that a large number of Belizean passports and nationality applications had been forged and those documents had been illegally issued to unscreened and unqualified purchasers. Only one other person, Therese Cabral, an employee of Odette’s Store in Belize City, has appeared before a Magistrate to answer charges in connection with the scandal. However, News 5 understands that as many as seventy-four persons have been listed by authorities as under scrutiny for involvement in connection with the forged applications, as well as money laundering at the Immigration Department. Appearing for the Government in Court this afternoon was Director of Public Prosecutions, Kirk Anderson.

Late word from Magistrate’s Court is that El Sayed was offered and made bail of two hundred thousand dollars plus two sureties totalling the same amount. He was also ordered to surrender his passport, to stay away from potential witnesses, and report regularly to the clerk of court. His next court date is the sixth of April.

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