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Sep 29, 2006

100 Belizean passports stolen from Bmp. office

Story PictureAs a department it has suffered more black eyes and body blows than a heavy weight boxer but tonight, immigration officials are once again at the centre of a scandal as one hundred passports have disappeared from the confines of a security vault in Belmopan. The passports bearing the serial numbers P0043801 to P0043900 were discovered missing on Thursday when the finance officer returned from holiday. That information has since been dispatched to border points, international security agencies and foreign embassies in the hope that anyone attempting to use the stolen documents will be caught. This afternoon, Director of Immigration Jose Carmen Zetina says when it comes to security breaches of this nature, he’s at his wits end.

Janelle Chanona, Reporting
?What does it say as far as checks and balances and in house security? Are you doing any changes, any measures are being altered??

Jose Carmen Zetina, Director, Immigration Department
?Well–I don?t know what to do because we had taken all the precautions that the police recommended to us last year. We had done it, they checked it. They agreed with what we had in place, what can I do. This is human element in place, what else can I do in respect to securing the building or the vault. This is two persons who must account for what happened. The immigration has a culture as you know, and we are trying to change it. And in respect to the passports, as you can see, there is a market out there, who knows, the only tells a story of what?s happening.?

Janelle Chanona
?So you are saying once the will is there is no way you can stop…?

Jose Carmen Zetina
?I could never ever. This is a salient case you can see. How can I hold anyone responsible outside other than the two persons responsible who were in custody of the passports? It?s a vault actually. A vault that is heavily secured with heavy duty padlocks and when I, inspected the vault yesterday, I didn?t see any sign of breaking in or tampering with the doors or padlocks.?

Janelle Chanona
?Does that mean that whoever took…?

Jose Carmen Zetina
?It only suggests that something went wrong since the passports had gone missing.?

Janelle Chanona
?Is anybody being questioned, investigated??

Jose Carmen Zetina
?The two people are being questioned, both the finance officer and the next person. Miss Audrey Bennett, who is the finance officer, and Jackie Wagner who had taken over.?

Janelle Chanona
?Have they said anything about whether they knew something was happening or they didn?t know??

Jose Carmen Zetina
?Well the thing is that they have to explain. The matter is under investigation with police. The only thing I can say is that a hundred passports are unaccounted for at this time.?

Janelle Chanona
?What do you say to the Belizean people knowing that last year two hundred passports went missing and now again a hundred passports, as far as securing this very important document? What does that say for the office??

Jose Carmen Zetina
?Well if you look at the incident last year and the incident this time. The two are different, no similarity at all in respect other than two hundred at that time and one hundred gone missing this time. The one last year as you know, they were signs that the Passport office in Belmopan had been burglarized. This time, no, nothing was tampered with. Everything was intact. The only thing is that the person who had taken over or the person who handed over according to them, they cannot account for the hundred missing passports.?

In August 2005, two hundred blank passports also disappeared from the Immigration office in Belmopan. Zetina had initially told the media that the passports were unusable because they were the new machine readable type, but two of the missing documents later turned up in Hong Kong. Although it was speculated that the incident was an inside job no one was ever arrested or charged in connection with the stolen passports.

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