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Oct 4, 2017

Look Out for Bogus Immigration Stamps

Diana Locke

The Committee has been questioning Locke on how the department intends to implement certain recommendations of the Auditor General. While some are easier implemented than others, there are some recommendations that will require assistance further afield. One example is the use of bogus stamps under the seal of the Immigration Department. Most of these have been collected and are intended to be destroyed, but there are issues in investigating potential cases involving the use of these stamps.

 

Mark Lizarraga, Senator, Business Community

“And that an inventory of all stamps used by the department is carried out and all obsolete visa arrival, visa extension, temporary employment permit and permanent residency stamps are destroyed. I know we’ve stopped using a lot of these stamps, but were they collected and destroyed? Were they all accounted for, Director, or do we still have some missing?”

 

Diana Locke, Director of Immigration

“As far as I know, they were collected and they should all be in the care of the finance officer. I do not know if they have been destroyed; I don’t think they have been destroyed as yet.”

 

Mark Lizarraga

“Is it your intention to recommend that they be destroyed?”

 

Diana Locke

“Yes. There’s no further use for them.”

 

Mark Lizarraga

“Recommendation nineteen is that the use of all bogus immigration stamps, foreign and local, are investigated by the Commissioner of Police to determine whether those stamps were fraudulently used in Belize or abroad.”

 

Diana Locke

“I’m not sure how that would be done, unless you have specific instances of cases that come to light, so it’s not just an issue for the Police. When that stamp appears, if a seal appears – I have tried to find out over the years whether there is a policy or legislation which governs the making of seals; I haven’t been able to find one. I think that is something that needs to be done. Similarly to how your flag is registered, I’m not sure if there are procedures where you can have a seal registered. Of course, there are always elements in the public that will try to make them and make them as close as possible to the original, but once you have something that looks like its features, I’m not sure what is done in the design – things that are done as security features. But I think it’s something we need to look at, because when we were using the rubber stamps, you could clearly go to any place – you should have a letter of authority from I would assume the Government of Belize to get a stamp made if you are in another country or its Embassy; but there are of course people out there who would be willing to make these things and they would almost look alike.”

 

Following his testimony before the Committee earlier this year, police searched the house of Barton Middleton and found a Justice of the Peace stamp with a fictitious name. That stamp was made at a company in Orange Walk, Creative Graphics Impression, which is owned by one Hugo Mendoza.  It is further known that the stamp was picked up by an Immigration Officer who has already appeared before the Senate Inquiry.  

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