Immigration Officer, person of interest in Hezbollah passport case
Within three days a suspected terrorist with alleged ties to the radical group Hezbollah was able to secure a Belizean identity. Rafik Mohammed Labboun Allaboun arrived in the country on August twenty-ninth and when he left, he had a Belizean birth certificate, a driver’s license and a passport all issued in the name of Wilhelm Dyck, a Belizean Mennonite of Shipyard who was born in February of 1976 and died two months later. The Police Department is investigating offices that the American national visited during his trip and has requested copies of all relevant documents and applications that were filed during his visit. The Justice of the Peace who issued her stamp on his documents has been identified as seventy two year old Juliana Arana, whose home was torched in an arson on Saturday morning. Arana told News Five that she does not wish to speak about the case. The other person questioned by police is Gilroy Guzman, the acting Supervisor in charge of the Belize City branch of the Immigration Department who is not to be mistaken for Horace Guzman, as first reported. Guzman gave a statement to the Criminal Investigations Branch while in the presence of his attorney. He told them that Allaboun showed him a copy of a Social Security Card and that was the identification used to process the passport in Dyck’s name. However, he did not make a copy of the ID, and there is none in the records. As a matter of fact the application for the passport has not been found either. As far as the investigation goes, the Police Department has deemed Guzman a person of interest. The office of the D.P.P. is also reviewing this case on whether charges will be brought against him. The Belmopan City Council has confirmed that a license was issued to Allaboun since he used his Belizean passport to show his identity. But the employee who processed the driver’s license is still being questioned because the twelve thousand series of numbers used on his ID is not yet being used in the country. According to the Public Relations Officer for the Ministry of National Security, in the early stage of the investigation, a senior officer took one look at Allaboun’s photo and determined him to be of Lebanese descent. Allaboun became a naturalized American after he moved from Beirut, Lebanon in 1986. The investigation is trying to determine whether or not there was collusion in any of the government offices that he visited during his brief visit in Belize. That investigation, according to the Ministry, also includes a thorough check into the background of Yasser Safa, Samer Safa and George Abdalah Elders. The Safa name has surfaced in numerous times in police reports.
“Mister Safa said Arabs help Arabs. He is a Lebanese and someone called him saying there is another Lebanese who needs help and supposedly a Belizean. Regarding the Safa’s involvement—Mister Safa, his wife, children, his brother Samer and also you have Mister George Elters. Are there any real tangible connections? What is their investigation about?”
Delroy Cuthkelvin, Public Relations Officer, Ministry of National Security
“Well in terms of our investigations here in Belize, as I said, our main focus is on this particular individual who was carrying a fake Belize passport, carrying a Belize birth certificate and a driver’s license—all in the name of Wilhelm Dyck. And of course the other persons whose names have been called as persons who were also picked up along with him in Mexico, an entire, thorough background check is also being done of all these persons. They are a couple of persons who are known to Belizean authorities or persons who have resided in fact who are even naturalized citizens and their names do appear in the files of the police department in various instances in the past being investigated for certain offences.”
“But nothing of this magnitude of terrorism?”
“I guess we could put it that way, but a thorough background check is being done on all these persons to see what—if any—is the connection between them and the individual in question and whether in fact they were any part of any process to facilitate his obtaining the documents in question. As I said, all of that needs to be established—nothing can be concluded until a full investigation is carried out. What we can also tell you is that where the driver’s license is concerned, our police authorities visited the authorities in Belmopan which were purported to have issued the driver’s license to this person in the name of Wilhelm Dyck. One of the things they found out was that each driver’s license carries a series of numbers on the back of the driver’s license and in the case of this person; their driver’s license carried a number that was in the twelve thousand series. And the authorities that issue licenses in Belmopan were able to confirm to us that they have not arrived at that series yet—they are still in the eleven thousand series.”
“So it didn’t come from them?”
“We are still trying to establish whether in fact it did and as to whether there is any collusion at all between members of the personnel at that office; we can’t say for sure. Also, the ID number, the driver’s ID number, it was established that that number is a number which belongs to another person who had been issued a driver’s license in the past, who is a resident of Belmopan. And so the police are also trying to find and interview that person. It doesn’t follow necessarily that that knows anything at all about it, but his ID number was used though and so the police are leaving no stones unturned. And so we want to find him as well and interview him about that. If there are any weaknesses in the system—as already seem to be suggested by certain aspects of the investigation—then it will have to be looked at as to how the system can be improved. One of the thing for example that the police authorities have been able to establish is that the filing system seems to be much to be desired in terms of the Vital Statistics Office where when a person makes an application for a copy of a birth certificate; the police have been told that they don’t file those applications in any particular order—by day, by month, by week—and they are just put in a room all together. And so that is one of the reasons they are claiming they have been having difficulty retrieving the actual physical application for the copy of the birth certificate. In terms of the passport office, again they have said that they don’t normally photocopy the birth certificate and keep that as part of the actual files in the computers. Again that will have to be looked at as to whether that is a weakness in the system. So clearly, as I said, we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, but the police authorities are leaving no stones unturned. So even as they are trying to determine whether there is any wrongdoing on the part of anyone, they are also trying to establish whether there are weaknesses in the system and make recommendations as to how those processes can be improved.”
Up to press time, the United States Embassy in Belmopan has made no comment on the case. Allabboun, according to press reports, was deported to US immediately after Saturday’s raid in Merida during which he produced the Belize passport. Shoddy paperwork is also at the center of the investigation into the Safa brothers’ status in Mexico. Samer Safa who is still detained by Mexican authorities will be deported to Belize because his documents are conflicting. On one form he lists himself as a tourist, and on another form he refers to his residency card in Mexico. Mexican authorities also intend to pick up Yasser Safa to examine his documents and if they are not in order, he will also face deportation. The police department intends to interview the Safa’s as soon as they have been repatriated to Belize.