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Jul 31, 2002

Analysis of report concludes Max must go

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The Prime Minister is back in town, and while we were not able to hook up with him to talk about the immigration scandal, we did have the luxury of time to make a more thorough examination of the document released by his office. News 5′s Stewart Krohn read the fine print and concluded that it’s time for some decisive action.

Stewart Krohn, Reporting

A closer look at yesterday’s statement from the Prime Minister’s office reveals some alarming conclusions, a few glaring inconsistencies and a number of unanswered questions.

Perhaps the most telling of CEO Alan Usher’s findings is the very first; that is the flat statement that “no nationality applications have been processed under the Belize Economic Citizenship Programme as of January fourteenth, 2002, when the programme was formally discontinued by the Government of Belize.”

What this means is that every successful applicant for nationality by naturalisation since January fifteenth must have been processed according to the legal requirement of at least five years residency in Belize. In other words there were no sales of economic citizenship “in the pipeline”, sales which would have been accounted for by government receipts. This is a crucial finding because it seems that any applications presented by licensed, as well as unlicensed immigration agents and granted after January fourteenth are immediately suspect with regard to the residency requirement. Usher hints at this in finding number eight when he talks about the “potential for fraud and abuse” by the backdating of applicant’s arrival stamps. Although Usher says that this requires “further investigation”, it is obvious that he has found ample evidence of backdating. Why that evidence is not contained in the statement issued to the press is not clear.

The second interesting finding comes in paragraph two. It is the definitive statement that “all nationality applications and passport applications were fully completed and contained all information required by law.” This is simply not true. As we have shown in previous newscasts, the passport applications we have seen–the same ones referred to by Usher–were not fully completed.

For example, where the form requires the city and country of birth the majority of applications have one word: China. As for the address, the words “Freetown Road” or “18th Street” hardly qualify as complete. And what about the applications signed by Justice of the Peace Max Santos? The letters “B.N.A.” written where the length of time the applicant was known, ought to at least raise some eyebrows. The fact is that the passport applications were incomplete and should have been rejected by the receiving clerk…unless that clerk was either ordered or bribed to process the obviously defective application.

As for finding number three, that “all passport applications examined contained evidence supporting Belizean nationality”, the assertion is misleading. The only evidence supporting Belizean nationality is a tiny unsigned stamp saying that the applicant has acquired nationality. While that would normally be good evidence, everything else about the application screams “fraud”.

Similarly, finding number nine concludes that “the process of the passport applications was found to be procedurally correct.” If correct procedure is to file an incomplete, false and forged application, then the word correct needs a new definition. In short, the statement is accurate in the same way that Bill Clinton’s testimony was accurate. Perhaps he didn’t have sexual relations with that woman.

Turning to the section on recommendations and actions taken, there is little to criticise. The problem is that history teaches us that the recommendations will not be followed…at least not without someone with real power pushing things along. And who will that person be? Herein lies the most troubling aspect of the Prime Minister’s statement–that is what it doesn’t say.

You can read the release a hundred times and you would never know that Alan Usher had a boss. That boss is the Minister of Home Affairs, Maxwell Samuels. Samuels holds the portfolio for immigration, not to mention police, and is ultimately responsible for everything that goes on in that department. Where was Samuels when all of this corruption was taking place at the Immigration Department? Where is he today? It is clear that the idea for an investigation originated with the Prime Minister and not his Minister of Home Affairs. Did Max Samuels assist in the investigation? Was he a target of the investigation? Again, the report does not say.

What is obvious, however, to anyone who has examined the facts, is that even under the most charitable scenario, the Minister of Home Affairs was asleep at the wheel. Under a less charitable interpretation he was wide-awake and in fact leading the motorcade. In either case Maxwell Samuels has demonstrated a blatant disregard for the supreme law of the land. It would be in his best interest and that of the country for him to resign from Cabinet. Failing this, it is the duty of the Prime Minister to remove him.

Samuels took the portfolio of Home Affairs following the resignation of Jorge Espat last October. Espat’s Ministry of National Security was split into Defence–headed by George Price–and Home Affairs, with Samuels at the helm.

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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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