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Apr 26, 2017

Why You Cannot Bribe an Honest Immigration Officer

Therese Chavarria

As to how the passport was caused to be printed despite Chavarria’s investigations, it turns out that former Cabinet Minister Carlos Perdomo was the one pushing for it. He apparently appealed directly to Director Meighan who later belatedly informed Chavarria of the decision. As for the five hundred dollar bribe to look the other way, Chavarria explained that officers were routinely subjected to these offers even though she informed them that this was a potential criminal offense and she personally pursued one such case. But in this instance she was asked to leave it to the internal investigative unit of the Department.

 

Eamon Courtenay, P.U.P. Senator

“What the Auditor General is saying that ‘Miss Chavarria was told by the Director that she was instructed by former Minister Carlos Perdomo to process the passport.’ First of all, do you recall Miss Ruth Meighan telling you that?”

 

Therese Chavarria, Retired Immigration Officer

“Yes, she did mention that.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“And you do recall telling that to the Auditor General’s team?”

 

Therese Chavarria

“Yes.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“Did that cause you any concern, that the Director is telling you that the Minister instructed that the passport be issued?”

 

Therese Chavarria

“Yes; I was very much appalled by that.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“You were appalled – why were you appalled?”

 

Therese Chavarria

“The Minister normally would not give such instruction.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“And it would be correct to say in respect to this particular passport, you had established that the person seeking this passport ought not to receive that passport?”

 

Therese Chavarria

“Yes.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“That’s why you took the papers home with you when you went on vacation?”

 

Therese Chavarria

“Yes, sir.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“And is it your testimony that Miss Rina came back in your absence, and to use the word of Senator Lizarraga, more accurately now, circumvented the system and got the passport issued to Mr. Ku?”

 

Therese Chavarria

“Yes.  The monies, I informed the Director that that money was left there and I made sure that the money was handed down to the F.O. But the person not only tried it at my office, the person visited me at my home two times.”

 

Mark Lizarraga, Senator, Business Community

“Was this the first instance you came across somebody trying to bribe an Immigration officer?”

 

Therese Chavarria

“No, it’s not the first time.”

 

Mark Lizarraga

“It’s not the first time – it’s not the first time somebody tried to bribe you?”

 

Therese Chavarria

“It’s not the first time.”

 

Mark Lizarraga

“And you knew of other officers that had been bribed, or attempts had been made to bribe them in a similar fashion?”

 

Therese Chavarria

“Yes, yes.”

 

Mark Lizarraga

“Can you give us any examples?”

 

Aldo Salazar, Chair, Senate Special Select Committee

“That had been bribed, or that attempts were made to bribe them, because they are two separate questions?”

 

Therese Chavarria

“Attempts, attempts. Many scenarios – and I would inform the person, tell the person because they don’t know that it’s an offense, and they could be arrested, they could be fined, on many occasions.”

 

Mark Lizarraga

“The person that tried to bribe?”

 

Therese Chavarria

“Yeah, one time in Dangriga I took one person to the police; he was charged and he had to pay his fine. The temptation is there, it happens; people try, people want to get things done fast; people want to get – I don’t know what they try to get, but they try and it happens.”

 

Mark Lizarraga

“Did you make a report to Police on Miss Rina?”

 

Therese Chavarria

“I made the report to the Director.”

 

Mark Lizarraga

“Why did you not make a report to the Police, if you had done this before?”

 

Therese Chavarria

“I was doing the investigation along with Mr. Arzu; and since we had Mr. Arzu who volunteered and now at that Belize City office they have officers who do investigation, and I was informed, ‘whenever you have any issue, Ms. Chavarria, we can do the investigation.’ So, I had passed it on to his investigation section.”

 

More from the Senate Inquiry is later in the newscast.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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