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Nov 22, 2011

Passport of Retired Canadian investor seized by immigration officials without reason

A Canadian, who is a retired investor residing in the Cayo District was detained at the Western border and threatened with arrest by Immigration officials on Monday as he returned to the Jewel. The allegation is that no explanation was offered and the retiree’s passport was seized by immigration officials. Despite numerous requests for the return of the passport, immigration officials refused. The Canadian, Steven (Ryker) Reichert of Cayo was incensed with the chain of events. News travelled quickly throughout the Canadian Investment Community Belize and some investors are threatening to pull out of the Benque Viejo area. Earlier today, News Five spoke via phone with the distressed Canadian.

Via Phone: Steven Reichert, Canadian Passport Seized by Immigration Dept.

“I’ve lived in Belize for just under two years. We were returning from vacation actually in Guatemala. We entered the western border and they asked me if I was an investor and I said yes I was a retired investor and my passport was taken and I was taken into the immigration office at the western border. That was the time when I asked why my passport was taken and they refused to give me an answer. I asked three or four times, they didn’t want to give me a receipt. After much pressure, they did give me a receipt for the passport, but absolutely no explanation in any way shape or form as to why my passport was taken or anything like that. When I persisted more, the officer in charge at the time said I had enough of this conversation. I can put you in jail and detain you; which was very disturbing because we never encountered that kind of thing before in our lives. That’s my Canadian passport; I am a Canadian citizen.”

Jose Sanchez

“Since this incident happened; how many days has it been now?”

Via Phone: Steven Reichert

“This actually happened yesterday evening.”

Jose Sanchez

“And today you still have not received any information as to why?”

Via Phone: Steven Reichert

“Nothing whatsoever. I’ve been in contact with the Canadian embassy who is looking into it right now.”

Jose Sanchez

Steven Reichert

“But you’ve also spoken to other Canadian who’ve had investments prepared for Benque Area also, right?”

Via Phone: Steven Reichert

“That is correct, yes.”

Jose Sanchez

“And has been the response from them when you shared with your fellow countrymen what you went through yesterday?”

Via Phone: Steven Reichert

“Actually they were outraged by the way I was treated, the things that were said about being arrested and detained for no reason. Basically it scared the investment off—one of the larger investors that was ready to close a deal in Benque for eleven million dollars just in the next three weeks, pulled his investment out; he just didn’t feel comfortable and the Canadian citizen with this kind of thing going on says I am not put my money there.”

Jose Sanchez

“Now do you have the name of the person who held your passport?’

Via Phone: Steven Reichert

“I do.”

Jose Sanchez

“What do you plan to do at this point? It seems that they are not willing to work with you at least so you can understand why?”

Via Phone: Steven Reichert

“Not at all. The gentleman’s name was Michael Tench and his superior was Mister Edgar, who is supposedly Head of Immigration. But neither one of them has been able to provide any type of answer or explanation why the passport was just taken. The Canadian government; it does belong to the Canadian government—it is the property of the Canadian government and they are very upset about those kind of actions and the consulate has been again talking with immigration and yet still no result.”

According to some estimates the total Canadian investment in jeopardy is in excess of twenty million dollars U.S. dollars.  The projects include: an avian research center, an education facility, a bird sanctuary, a leisure center and a retirement community.

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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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29 Responses for “Passport of Retired Canadian investor seized by immigration officials without reason”

  1. Eye In The Sky says:

    The people working the Canadian Consulate in Belize City are idiots who have no idea where Canada is.
    He is wasting his time. He better contact the Canadian Embassy in Guatemala City

    HEY ! More Bad Publicity For Belize. LOL

  2. jescalante says:

    People in government position as immigration officers need more education, they are so dumb founded, if they can treat there own people without respect imagine the foreigners.

  3. Manuel Almendar says:

    There must be a reason for this, unless the officials are drunk!!!
    We request this media to please keep us informed.

  4. Storm says:

    I would like to wait for an official explanation from GOB before condemning the act as unlawful or capricious. But because we should be friendly to foreign investment, I hope there is a good explanation, and it will be made public without more delay.

  5. mustard says:

    lol, so the GOB Immigration scews up again, how is Beltraide going to get foreign investors if this type of action is taken??

  6. Barack Obama says:

    I believe this person Michael Tench was allegedly involve in the last immigration scandal at the Airport with planes landing overnight…His character sounds bit fishy.

  7. belizean bookie says:

    lets take some bets here….ok here is how it is

    50:1 there was a legit reason for this
    100:1 they can prove the reason
    1:100 some BS story about mistaken identy
    1:75 no excuse
    2,000:1 (like most immigration scandals) they blame the lonely desk clerk who happen to lend them the pen

    all bets are on

  8. JSL LTD says:

    SoB. If it’s not bad enough yet you have to go and do something like this. As a returning Belizean investor (from Canada) myself, I don’t care to hear any explanation. Seems for every little thing “foreigners” get harassed when Belizeans just pay $20 and there is no record of wrongdoing. Without foreign monies this country is way up that creek.

  9. Bel Can says:

    T.I.B This Is Belize as a Canadian who has lived for many, many years in Belize that motto has served me well, expect anything and everything. I would suggest that you deal directly with the Canadian Embassy in Guatemala who I have found to be very efficicent. The Canadian Consulate in Belize city is basically useless and totally unhelpful, this is based on multiple experiences that I have had with them.

  10. joe mcguire says:

    Immigration officers are idiots

  11. BlzCun says:

    I hope that this haunts the Belize Immigration so they stop making stupid errors.

  12. thinker says:

    it’s totally wrong. It can be a case of “power of authority.” This happens so much in Belize. These government officials should be more educated, but sometimes like in everything, there’s a bad potato. Hope this guys gets his passport soon and clears this shameful incident. Only in a third world country like Belize……these things happen on a regular basis. It’s such a huge investment that Belize will lose if they don’t get their act together.

  13. dawn sandoval says:

    I believe its illegal to seize any foreigners passport unless its done by the court when someone has been formally charged with a crime and wishes bail, so what kind of politricks is going on here, he must have stepped on some politians toes, but good to go public, this everyone should do to expose corruption and stupidity, thank you channel 5 news, and thank you Mr. Reichert for speaking out! Is this any way to treat investors to our country especially a commonwealth member? What an insult! I wonder which other country will get the millions US.D. Our loss their gain!

  14. eduardo says:

    Knowing how the government operates ……. they will just sweep it under the rug … that is the life we live

  15. belizeanheat says:

    How about this one….It’s that time of year….time for all the GOB officials to start thier little Christmas Hustle. A little cash exchange and I gaurantee there wouldhave been no problem and this gentleman would have his passport back. But some of the Canadians actually have morals and hate corruption.

  16. BGM says:

    I apologize for my country. Regardless of whatever the reason for confiscating your passport, the Immigration personnel has a duty to tell you WHY they are confiscating same. I am a Belizean that was living in the U.S. for over 40 years and came back to more nonsense than I am willing to stand for. I am selling everything I own and moving back to the U.S.. I feel for my people but what this government is doing is malicious. They are a plutocracy with a splash of dictatorship. Good luck!

  17. belizeanfirst says:

    He has lived under two years here and has voter’s registration ID. Am I missing something here? Maybe I do not know how cheap and insignificant are rights. Rights easily granted to others barely here and so difficult for others who have lived here most of their lifetime and contribute to the economy! Shoots so not only Nigerians, Chinese, Indians (from India) all these brought in by people in high places and getting paid big time for it!!! Yet we keep closing our eyes to this! How can we when UNEMPLOYMENT so HIGH!!!

  18. Dawn Sandoval says:

    Good eye you caught the I.D. issue belizeanfirst, I pointed out “commonwealth member” has special rights in Belize, such as the right to vote after 1-year in Belize, this adds to the insult to this man and the stupidity of action!

  19. Manuel Almendar says:

    Why can`t we see his UGLY face?
    Why cover him?

  20. jose says:

    This is an outrageous act by the Immigration department and also this is happening at the northern border.
    I have repeated this and will say it again “the immigration and Custom Officers need to be more educated” …. but you know what ???.. Who is their Boss????… Correction starts from the head up and trickles down.

  21. BT says:

    @belizeanfirst, commonwealth citizens who live in Belize for 1 year are allowed to vote. It’s an archaic law from the colonial days that I (a commonwealth citizen and a belizean) think should be repealed

  22. Steven reichert says:

    Thank you very much everyone for the support. yes I am a retired canadian investor. As of this date I still do not have my passport back. It is the property of the Canadian Government, and they are doing a big dance about who has it now at immigration. There are concerns of the passport being copied or analyzed to how to figure out the security features and security strips and possibly used for an illegal purpose such as terrorism, smuggling and other illegal activities by Belizian Immigration officials. As a Canadian passport allows very free visa free travel to many countries of the world.
    There is absolutely no reason why the passport was taken or any explanation given, and after alot of arguing did I only get a receipt from Michael Tench for my seized passport. This is also illegal, to seize property belonging to the Canadian Government and the immigration official can be charged with that offence. Mr. Tench seemed to fumble around with making up an answer when I kept persisting for an answer why the passport was seized. When I pressed him further he just threw up his hands and said if you keep asking me. I will arrest you and lock you up.
    The investors that were closing deals in Benque Viejo had been working on their deals for almost a year, and now are pulling out. the total investment loss for Benque is over $20 million usd and hundreds of local full time jobs and countless part time jobs. With a very high unemployment rate in Benque Viejo, this would have benefited the community greatly and created alot of prosperity.
    It is even worse as numerous other businesses are now pulling out, along with retirees that were settling in Benque. It is truly a sad day for Benque and Belize.
    The only explanation I can put forward is because I stated I was an investor, that the immigration officer Michael Trench was possibly looking for some Christmas shopping money to be paid to him, to avoid the hassle. And that is something I do not do, is pay bribes. I will keep everyone posted of what happens, and I have contacted the Canadian Embassy in Guatemala, but I will say that the Canadian Embassy here in Belize City was very helpful and doing a great job.

  23. Steven reichert says:

    Since this incident happened and went to the news, the immigration dept at the Western border is now trying to do damage control.They really have no explanation of what happened. I have heard through the grapevine that they are going to be preparing a rebuttal to try and slander my character and the investors character and that was the reason for the stop and seizure of the Canadian Passport.. THAT IS 100 PERCENT NOT THE CASE AND IS TOTAL B.S
    Immigration should just deal with the facts, investigate it, and fire the offending immigration official responsible and be done with it and make sure it doesn t happen to someone else, ever again.
    Stop trying to get out of the incident by blaming the Canadian Investors, this is sheer nonsense.

  24. cayoman says:

    come on my people. who has the nicest rides and nicest houses and blings? beep

    customs and immigration. this is one of the most corrupt part of gov. and the leaders just turn a black eye on it. most of these ministers and officials seek office not for the betterment of our country but to better off themselves.

    when are we going to have honest hard working people that have the country at heart? its tuff to know that i know no other home but Belize. and its even tuffer to see it go down the drain daily.
    its starts from the top, the leaders are not responsible, they seek their own riches from the poor and seek things of their own interest.

    step down mr pm….i am sure that mr price can do a better job the current and past gov.

  25. Dave says:

    What a sad state of affairs. Steven you are not alone, I met a British gentleman at a bar in Corozal last week. He had his passport taken off him in San Pedro I believe it was 8 months ago and he is still trying to get it back…
    As or offering bribes, we Canadians are not accustomed to “bribes”. I nor anyone I know would ever even consider offering a bribe to a Customs Officer or a Police Officer or anyone else for that matter. In Canada, you’d find yourself under arrest instantly for doing so.

    I love Belize and the vast majority of the people….but the governments that take turns having power show by their actions they are not there to make it a better place for the people of Belize, but a better place for them and their family and friends….as well as those who will pay their bribes.

  26. cayorez says:

    This is all to typical of the Western border.
    There have been WAY too many shakedowns of people for money or goods.
    No one wants to invest in Belize because of this nonsense. I see that the Benque project of $20 million has since moved to Peten, where it was welcomed with open arms.
    Lots of jobs and economic prosperity in Peten thanks to Belizes repeated screw ups.
    How many times does this have to happen before Government gets the idea.
    Here is Belize we have the most expensive cost of goods, food, utilites etc.
    Meanwhle the roads are falling apart unemployment is rampant, people are starving and crime is rising. Just go over the border to Melchor and look at all the concrete paved roads and economic prosperity. Go over the border to Mexico and see how things are.
    We have the slowest and most expensive internet in most of the world.
    Government needs to smarten up, maybe we shud take away all their fancy Suvs and landcruisers and let them take the bus and get to reality with their country like the rest of us live. People are moving out of Belize in droves to greener pastures.
    Immigration officer Mr. Mike Tench was disciplined for his illegal actions. Guess what is was?
    transferred to another location until the press dies down. Guess where he is now?
    Back working at the Western Border again doing the same thing.!!!
    Guess that money making machine is too good to fire!!!
    Just goes to show you immigration is not about Regulating our border but making money and not caring what impression we give locals or visitors.

    Too the $20 million investors. You made the right decsion putting that. money in Peten Nd not in Politicians pockets here.

    Wake up Belize!!! We were voted in the top ten worst countries for corruption for a reason.
    Don t think the rest of the world doesnt read!!!!

  27. juztanotherinbeliZe says:

    I agree the corruption is rampant!! BTB is.a prime example.
    They are supposed to be advertising and promoting belize but
    more often they are hiring more goons to shake down hotel owners for money than focusing on bringing more tourists. Each year they paint a rosy picture of how well they are doing and tourism is up. Bull&#% one only needs to talk to hotel owners and tourist guides to get the real facts.
    BTB is hated by hotel owners because they see their tax money wasted on Suvs and trips for BTB employees. Very litttle of that money ends up in advertising where it is supposed to be.
    The lands office is another personal money pot for politicians people like Minister Contreras and Vega should be brought up on fraud and corruption charges and jailed. Not continually praised in the media. Contreras is a ghost Minister like a moray eel , he only comes out to feed off some poor investor and after chomping his $$ goes back in his den. Never to be seen or heard of again until next sucker comes along. oops I mean investor.
    Try and get your minister Erwin on the phone or at the office? you will never see or hear from him unless you got. bag of $$$. Why do we keep putting unqualified idiots in these positions?

  28. cayorez says:

    Lol when you look up the definition of the word CORRUPTION in the dictionary you will see Irwins picture there.

  29. markeymark says:

    I agree the level of investor confidence is at an all time low.
    What ever happen to all the big deala Erwin was flouting around. Caye Chapel sold to Arabs?
    DHt holdings Casino and shopping plaze, Free Trade Zone ?? etc etc.
    Well lets see…….. Caye Chapel deal was sunk by the Canadian Investor that Erwin stole it from.
    After threatening to press criminal charges for corruption and fraud at the international level against Contreras. So he ran for cover when the press came looking for him.
    Dht holdings was supposed to have broken ground and be half built by now, but nothing other than Erwin making a world of promises and then collecting some fees and running.
    Free Trade zone same thing. Couple places open but not even worth going, other than Erwin and his buddy selling overpriced land to foolish investors and Erwins personal gas station in there its dead!!
    We were supposed to have elected an area rep not a bank robber.
    Its time we tossed this lout from the train.
    I have not seen one project from Contreras come to fruition and actually do something for the people of Belize.
    But amazing how our neighbours seem to have their act together and enjoying prosperity.

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