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Jul 29, 2002

Nation waits for report on passport sales

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Today was the day that C.E.O. in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Alan Usher, was supposed to present to the Prime Minister his report on the illegal sale of Belizean passports. We don’t know if that deadline was met, since Usher did not answer our inquiries. But in any case, Prime Minister Said Musa left the country over the weekend and will not return until Wednesday. While the results of the official investigation will thus wait until later in the week, our own inquiry continues. Information reaching News 5 indicates the leakage of more incomplete and falsified passport applications, bolstering the accusation that the illicit selling of Belizean nationality has been taking place on a large scale over a considerable length of time. In short, although the economic citizenship programme was ended by constitutional amendment on January fifteenth, for a number of Belizean “immigration agents” it was still business as usual. The difference is that prior to January fifteenth, the Government treasury received the bulk of funds generated by the legal programme; after that date all the money went to the agents and those officials they had to bribe to falsify applications and expedite their approval. The key element of that falsification involved claiming that applicants– primarily from Taiwan, the Peoples Republic of China and the Middle East–had lived in Belize for the required minimum of five years, when in fact most had never set foot in Belize.

Evidence documented by News 5 includes dozens of passport applications with incomplete and obviously false information, forged signatures by the applicants, bogus addresses and false affirmations by several Justices of the Peace attesting to the truth of the statements. Accepting the doctored applications were various staff members from the Immigration Department, including Director Paulino Castellanos. Castellanos and every other member of the department has declined to speak to News 5, as has Minister responsible immigration Maxwell Samuels. The investigation by C.E.O. Usher was ordered by Prime Minister Said Musa after embarrassing revelations appeared on July eighteenth in the Opposition newspaper, The Guardian. Today News 5, citing the Freedom of Information Act, wrote to Minister Samuels, requesting access to all successful applications for Belizean nationality and passports granted since January fifteenth.

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