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Jul 15, 2020

Chairman of the Senate Special Select Committee Tables Report, Finally

Today, the Chairman of the Senate Select Committee Senator Aldo Salazar tabled the long-awaited senate report. The one hundred and sixty-page report confirms the findings of the Auditor General Special report on Immigration, Immigration and Nationality Department for the period 2011 and 2013.  The report reveals the deep seated culture of corruption within the Immigration Department and the hustle implicating several U.D.P. ministers and their political associates of facilitating approvals to hundreds of persons who did not qualify for visas, nationality and passports.  One such person is the infamous South Korean national, Wong Hong Kim, who managed to get a Belizean passport in his name without even stepping a foot in Belize and while inside a jail in Taiwan. Former Minister Elvin Penner was the person who facilitated Kim. The report implicated several other ministers and led to the formation of the Senate Select Committee and an inquiry during which several explosives narratives were aired on live television. That was more than two years ago, and today finally the committee’s report was tabled. One of the telling statements from witnesses came from Teresita Castellanos, who famously said, “the Immigration Department has an entrenched culture of corruption and hustling. Milking the cow we say from the very top to the very bottom of the ladder.”   Here is how it went:

 

 

Michel Chebat

Michel Chebat, Lead P.U.P. Senator

“The auditor found that unqualified individuals were first issued visas and thereafter Belizean passports. Individuals were issued visas and shortly thereafter they were permanent residency status. Minister of Government recommended and requested the approval of visas for individuals at the Belmopan office. Chief Executive Officers, mayor, caretakers made requests for application to be facilitated with Belizean visas in Belmopan. It was fond that one hundred and thirty four visa stubs were never presented or found on hand at northern border station. The committee found that the scale and frequency of the findings demonstrates significance failures pointing to an illness of non performance, underperformance and unaccountability which had overtaken the department. There were replacement nationality certificates which were fraudulently back dated and fraudulent nationality were given under the guise of registration and Belizean economic citizenship investment programs. It says that copies of bogus Chinese passports pages were found on some nationality files. Seventy two instances where ministers intervene in this process. The names that are recorded in this report include the honorable Edmond Castro, it includes the honorable Manuel Heredia, the honorable Rene Montero, it includes the then honorable Elvin Penner, it includes the then honorable Santiago Castillo, Ramon Witz, Carlos Perdomo, Eden Martinez and it goes on and on and on. And so Mister President the name of the Honorable Pablo Marin is called at least ten different times here.”

 

Osmany Salas

Osmany Salas, Senator for N.G.O.s

“There is some reference made to perjury and it was clear in that report that several people lied to the Special Select Committee. Several people lied because there were several instances where we got different responses pertaining to the same matter and we should encourage or ask the relevant authorities to look into that and to prosecute where necessary because we need to make an example of those who lied. That is important for the future. We need to make an example of those. It was shocking to read how, even from the Auditor General report a few years ago, there is fair attitude with our national and passports that sacred document that is documented proof that we are Belizean and for the almighty dollar there were several individuals that didn’t think twice to not treat that with the sanctity that it deserves. That was shocking to read.”


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