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Jul 20, 2020

N.T.U.C.B. to Advocate for Senate Report Investigations

The much anticipated Senate report was tabled and adopted by the Senate last week. It is now a public document so the question now is: will the relevant authorities investigate and prosecute those named in the report for carrying out illegal activities regarding the sale of Belizean visas, nationalities and passports? That is left to be seen but the National Trade Union Congress met on Saturday in Belize City where Senator Elena Smith presented the report. The N.T.U.C.B. has decided that it will advocate for investigations and based on the report, there are many persons to investigate. Former Immigration Minister Elvin Penner, former U.D.P. Belize City Councilor Eric Chang, Patrick Tillett, and Barton Middleton are only a few but many instances were not fully publicly ventilated, like the case of Harmouch family. The committee found many irregularities with the documents of numerous persons with that surname, including that vetting, as required by the Nationality and Permanent Residence Section Policy and Procedures Manual, appeared to have been carried out their applications. The report found that eleven persons with the surname Harmouch received Belizean Nationality before the General and Municipal Election in March 2012. The reports also found that four nationality files for members of the Harmouch family were among those that could not be found. In the case of Khodr Harmouch, the Honorary Consul of Belize in Tripoli, Lebanon, he wrote letters to Minister Manuel Heredia to intervene in the nationality process of persons with the same Harmouch surname, a clear conflict of interest.  According to the report, several Harmouchs’ may not have qualified for Belizean nationality on the dates their certificates were signed. It is now the hopes of the unions that the authorities will investigate, if that does not happen, the N.T.U.C.B. says it will take action.

 

Elena Smith

Elena Smith, Senator for Unions

“We are hoping that as per the recommendations of the Auditor General that is included in there and that of the committee that the authorities will proceed with doing their investigations and that these persons will be dealt with as per the findings of those investigations. You all are aware that there were persons who came to the committee who lied to us. I mean out rightly lied to the committee under oath. There were persons who refused to testify any at all, citing that I am afraid for my life but when you saw them coming to the hearing you saw them coming with persons are members of the House, and you see them having their discussion before they go in to the hearing but yet when they get there they are afraid. Why do you need to have, when I say the House I don’t mean the House of Representatives. I mean the entire National Assembly parliamentarians. I should have use that word, parliamentarian. How can you come and tell me that you are scared for your life but you are out there n the open talking like nothing. You just refuse to share information with us and I suppose of who you would incriminate. So we, the N.T.U.C.B. met on Saturday and presented to them my take on the report and we agreed that investigations must happen and so we are going to be advocating for investigations to happen.”

 

Hipolito Novelo

“Is there is one person in the report that should be criminally investigation would you say it would be Elvin Penner.”

 

Elena Smith

“He would be one of them.”

 

Hipolito Novelo

“Others?”

 

Elena Smith

“There are several more who if you go through the report you would see where they were fully engage in what was occurring. So it is not one person. I think that his name is the more obvious because the was the minister at the time and so people would readily select him as the persons but as you heard mentioned several times by employees in that department that the department has culture of corruption and it continues.”

 

Hipolito Novelo

“To this day?”

 

Elena Smith

“Well there has to be maybe another audit to see if it is continuous but I can tell you that while that inquiring was going on I had gone to the department to deal with a passport for my child. With my two eyes saw that one of the employees was given money while there.  And I was standing right there watching him. I reported the matter to the director right away.”


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