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Jan 30, 2007

Passport scandal laid to rest as last charges dropped

The passport scandal: it was big news back in 2002 when it was shown that hundreds, perhaps over a thousand Belize passports had been illegally sold on the global market by unscrupulous private sector agents in collusion with even more unscrupulous public officers and politicians. And while former immigration minister Max Samuels lost his seat in Cabinet and Immigration Department Director Paulino Castellanos was sent into retirement, no one has been successfully prosecuted, as immigration “consultant” Gabby Affif was acquitted after a much delayed trial and Hassan El-Sayed has absconded to Lebanon. Today the sordid affair was officially laid to rest as the Director of Public Prosecutions dropped all charges against the last defendant, Ursula Hill. Hill, who worked as a secretary for Affif, turned state’s evidence in the Affif trial but her testimony allegedly did not agree with earlier statements against Affif and El-Sayed at their preliminary inquiry. An obviously embarrassed former D.P.P. Kirk Anderson charged Hill with a raft of crimes related both to the original phoney passport applications as well as her later dubious testimony. Anderson’s successor, Lutchman Sooknandan, apparently does not share that opinion and Hill is now free of all charges.

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