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Feb 23, 2017

At Senate Hearing, a Tale of Attempted Bribery Making G.O.B. Richer

Teresita Castellanos

A few weeks ago, former C.E.O. of the Ministry of Immigration, Candelaria Saldivar-Morter, mused that many unusual things happened in the Immigration Department and that there was corruption from the top to the bottom.  Another example came to light in Wednesday’s public hearings where former Finance Officer Teresita Castellanos told of the unusual way in which the Government Treasury collected five hundred Belize dollars, an alleged attempted bribe for the former officer in charge of the passport office to facilitate processing a passport for an Asian woman.  Instead of making a formal complaint and handing over the money to Police, the then-Director, Ruth Meighan, chose to collect the money and ask Castellanos to deposit it in the Treasury as with regular Government revenue. This is how Castellanos described it to the Senators on Wednesday.

 

Teresita Castellanos, Former Finance Officer, Immigration Department

“This five hundred dollars was given to me by the Director. I did not get anything from Mr. Sambula nor Ms. Chavarria. I don’t know what the report has, but Ms. Ruth Meighan, the then director called me, and she explained to me what happened, and she told me I have the money the five hundred. I did not get it right away and then somehow I believe later on I reminded because she was going out for a meeting – I don’t recall if it was the following day or a couple days afterwards but I went to her office and I asked the director for the money. During that while, I made contact with the sub-treasury F.O. (finance officer) and told her the situation and the combination of cost, under what we would pay it.”

 

Aldo Salazar, Chair, Senate Special Select Committee
“Miss I don’t think you understand, they are saying that this is bribe money. It’s a bribe; somebody was being paid to do something.”

 

Teresita Castellanos
“Yes but do you want me to start from there because I did not see the report? Yes, from what Ms. Chavarria is saying here, yes, it was a bribe at the time. At the time, the passport office, they still had a passport office in Belize City that it was printing passport. That bribe took place in Belize City with Miss Chavarria and a Chinese individual. The thing is that, that money was handed to the director and if you want to get to the bottom of it, yes, I went and I got the money from the director but regarding the report and the bribe – that’s why I’m saying we paid five hundred as I was instructed into the treasury, that money was paid into the treasury. That money that the person took – the five hundred [dollars] that person took to Miss Chavarria, Miss Chavarria did not accept the money.”

 

Castellanos says the sub-treasury was advised that the matter was part of an investigation and so the money was referenced to a file indicating such, but it was not clear what became of the matter.

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