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Apr 27, 2017

Why the ‘Picture of a Picture’ Was Necessary in Special Cases

As we reported on Wednesday, retired Immigration Officer Therese Chavarria confirmed that in at least two or three cases, with permission from senior officials, she was able to fool the passport system into accepting a picture of someone who did not appear to take the photograph in person. Her method was basic: she simply printed out a blown up image on a letter sized typing sheet, taped it to the back of the chair that the person would have sat to take the picture, and “click”, the machine’s camera took a picture of that picture – and accepted it like the real thing. But these were for legitimate reasons – the persons had medical emergencies and could not leave their hospital beds just to take a photograph. The question is, could it have been similarly done for someone, namely South Korean fugitive Won Hong Kim, who had never actually come to Belize and had no legitimate reason to come here, never mind claiming Belizean citizenship? Chavarria detailed the circumstances behind her ingenuity for the Senate panel on Wednesday.

 

Therese Chavarria

Therese Chavarria, Retired Immigration Officer

“I did at least two or three passports in this manner and I did it in good faith. I could recall one Mr. Robinson, I guess some of us here can recall Mr. Robinson was the gentleman in Orange Walk who was burnt, I think he had about ninety percent of the body burnt and it was a life and death situation. He had to be flown out of the country like the following day when the family came to my office that was in Belize City. Mr. Robinson could not move from the hospital bed and Mr. Robinson needed to go. The family came to see me and they expressed their concern and I said okay, I have to go and see Mr. Robinson; I visited the hospital and I saw Mr. Robinson and I asked the wife to provide me with a photograph and I tried. We need to explain that our system, and a lot of our systems here are donations, and these donations are not programmed for us; they are programmed for stuff in the U.S. but when we get these systems or these machines, we try to adapt them or make them to suit us the best way possible. We were supposed to have a portable system that never accompanied our system, our present system…”

 

Aldo Salazar, Chair, Senate Special Select Committee

“What you mean a portable system?”

 

Therese Chavarria

“A portable system, a system that…”

 

Eamon Courtenay, P.U.P. Senator

“You could have taken it to hospital?”

 

Therese Chavarria

“That can go – we can move, we can go to Jalacte, we can go to Corozal, we can – and take the photograph and do the data and that information would be brought back to the passport office and the passport is done.”

 

Aldo Salazar

“But naturally in this case the photograph would not have assisted in any way with Mr. Robinson, because he was badly burnt, right?”

 

Therese Chavarria

“Right.”

 

As noted, witnesses have gone before the Senate to swear that it’s impossible to get someone’s picture on the system unless that person appears at the Immigration office personally. 

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