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Jan 26, 2017

Aldo Salazar Indicts Officers for Failing to Collaborate on Applications

Jin Chen An. He or she, depending on who you ask, was a Chinese investor consultant working with one Roger Tien, seeking a visa to come to Belize. He was invited by Minister of Trade Erwin Contreras in 2012, despite apparently living in Belize from 2007 and even opening a place of business, National Bar and Restaurant at mile two and a half Philip Goldson Highway, and had a Chinese passport and U.S. visa.  An parlayed a two-week visa into Belizean nationality and a police record. Jin’s visa was approved on October twenty-fourth, 2012 by then-Director Ruth Meighan, based on Minister Contreras’ letter, despite her own note attached that “applicant decided they do not need visa again.” He was supported by no less than two powerful Ministers – Contreras and the then-Minister of State in Finance and Economic Development, Santiago “Santino” Castillo, who wholeheartedly supported this application for one of his “supporters and constituents” – before he actually applied for one. But it was all based on a bogus Chinese passport issued May 2006 with many equally bogus stamps inside for travel to Belize and working for various places of employment but no sign of any entry visa from Mexico to Belize. An was a facilitator for many others to come to Belize through illegal processes. So sure was Chair of the Senate’s Special Select Committee, Aldo Salazar, of this fait accompli that he had little trouble getting former Director of Immigration Ruth Meighan to agree. She also volunteered, when prompted, her feelings that the Department’s established systems were so easily compromised, to the point where she felt she did not even have to check the Minister’s recommendations against the file at hand for the usually clear-cut issue of gender.

 

Aldo Salazar

Aldo Salazar, Chair, Senate Special Select Committee

“From what I am seeing, someone, some people were manipulating the system to get visas…”

 

Eamon Courtenay, P.U.P. Senator

“Do you accept that?”

 

Ruth Meighan, Former Director of Immigration

“Yes.”

 

Aldo Salazar

“Because the report is showing us that visas were being – there were some loopholes and they were able to get the visas?”

 

Ruth Meighan

“Yes.”

 

Aldo Salazar

“And then shortly after that, based on what I am seeing here from Jin Chen An, they were able to falsify passports, stamps and various things, which would show that the person had been here from 2007, 2003, whenever it was; and based on what was there, then the nationality was obtained. And that seems to be the prevailing theme throughout this entire thing: I don’t really feel that we even need to go into specifics for all of them, because all of them are really the same – that was what was happening. And I feel that one of the major loopholes – what made the system lend itself to this abuse – is because there was no correlation between the sections; would you agree with that?”

 

Ruth Meighan

Ruth Meighan

“Yes.”

 

Aldo Salazar

“If there was only a basic comparison when somebody is applying for nationality with visa, to see when the person got the visa, then this would not have occurred, or should not have occurred. I think it would have been more difficult to occur. So I would say with confidence that I would want to include that in one of the recommendations. So I want to ask you, and I want you to be candid: in relation to nationality, I have described a certain weakness in the system; are you aware of anything else that could lend itself to abuse in this fashion?”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“In nationality?”

 

Eamon Courtenay

Aldo Salazar

“Yes, in nationality or anything you would like to add?”

 

Ruth Meighan

“After I’ve browsed through the report and some of the findings that came up, even I as the director didn’t expect that some of the things that happened did happen, so I must state that clearly. Because the expectations were that when the file is presented, the information that is presented is accurate, relevant; I mean what we ask for. Obviously, I don’t know if changing the people or putting more controls or putting a better system in place would make a difference; obviously the Department requires people within the Department that you can trust with the information that they present you with, because at the end of the day, what you get is what you make your decision on, so my recommendation is that maybe there needs to be sort of more systematic control of how the processes are being done.”

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