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Apr 26, 2017

2 Years Before Kim, Immigration Allowed ‘Double Photos’ for Passports

Retired Immigration Officer Therese Chavarria has seen it all in thirty years at the Department, dating back to 1986. She took her leave last year after being transferred to Punta Gorda following assignments in the Passport Section and the head office in Belmopan, which was where she was at the height of the period documented in the Auditor General’s Report. Two years before the South Korean fugitive, Won Hong Kim became a Belizean citizen, Chavarria had to exercise some ingenuity to help legitimate Belizeans obtain needed documents to fly out of the country.  She spoke of the late employee of Belize Sugar Industries Edward Robinson and two other families permitted Immigration Department employees to take photographs of photographs for usage in passports. And despite less than optimal results, they passed muster. Chavarria demonstrated the method she used for the Senate panel.

 

Therese Chavarria

Therese Chavarria, Retired Immigration Officer

“I asked the family of the patient to do a photograph. But normally [when] you get a photograph it would be maybe a two-by-two; a two-by-two would not work; so I thought of a photograph, more or less…(Gestures) this size. So I told the family member, ‘try and get a photograph this size.’”

 

Aldo Salazar, Chair, Senate Special Select Committee

“The size of an eight-and-a-half…”

 

Therese Chavarria

“A letter-size. What I did, because normally the person would sit…”

 

Aldo Salazar

“Just a minute because we need to be able to record; the Clerk will assist us with that?”

 

Therese Chavarria

“Normally the person would sit – we have a seat provided – where the camera is. So I said, okay, I need to do something similar; I took that photograph and we used a piece of tape and we taped it here (Gestures) – that’s where the person would normally sit, and I asked the officer to try and take a photo, and that’s basically what we did.”

 

Aldo Salazar

“So you were there when it was done?”

 

Therese Chavarria

“Yes.”

 

Aldo Salazar

“Did it take a long time to do?”

 

Therese Chavarria

“No.”

 

Aldo Salazar

 “Five minutes, ten minutes?”

 

Therese Chavarria

“Five minutes.”

 

Aldo Salazar

 “Okay. I am trying to determine what opportunity, if this was done with the passport in question – the Kim passport – what opportunity they would have had to do this. So you’re saying it’s something that could be done in five minutes? (Therese Chavarria nods head yes)”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“And the issue would be making sure that the camera, when it’s taking the picture, it goes within the space, yes?”

 

Therese Chavarria

“Right, because it’s only from shoulder up.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“And then what about the quality?”

 

Therese Chavarria

“That is what I mentioned – the quality was not the quality that we expect, but like I said, we need to get these patients out; so we accepted it was visible, we could recognize the person, we saw the picture, we accepted and it went through.”

 

Asked if U.S. authorities would have raised questions about the pictures, Chavarria noted that the coloring might have, but otherwise there would be no issues in a legitimate situation.

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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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