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  • Speaker Of The House Signs MOU With FOPREL And SICA

    Friday, 07 September 2018 02:44
  • New International Flight Headed To Belize

    Friday, 07 September 2018 02:46
  • 224 Farmers Graduate From Farmers Field School

    Friday, 07 September 2018 03:09

Since the Immigration Scandal news first broke in September of this year, every day thereafter new information continues to surface from several angles of deep rooted corruption. While Elvin Penner was at the forefront of the news for a while, tonight another Cabinet member is being accused of the same corruption. Channel 5 reported last night that Junior Minister Edmund Castro is allegedly involved in the lucrative visa hustle. The allegation is backed up with an interview given by an insider who broke the silence and spoke on the hundreds of thousands of dollars being paid by ‘would be’ nationals to acquire a visa ‘under the table’.


One Minister, who has categorically denied allegations of his involvement, is Minister of National Security John Saldivar. Saldivar was met by the media this morning in Belize City where he denied any connection in this scandal.


Marion Ali- Reporter


"Are you or were you involved in any way in this immigration scandal?"


Screen_shot_2013-10-24_at_7.55.51_PMHon. John Saldivar, Minister of National Security


"Definitely not."


Marion Ali- Reporter


"In any of the activities?"


Hon. John Saldivar, Minister of National Security


"You don't even need to ask that question. It’s definitely not."


Marion Ali- Reporter


"What about other ministers of the Cabinet? Is the Cabinet itself investigating any other person other than Minister Penner. Minister Castro's name has also come out?"


Hon. John Saldivar, Minister of National Security


"They would have to answer for themselves."


Geovanni Brackett- Reporter


"As a senior member of the Cabinet, what is your comment after watching Channel 5 News of this new person coming out alleging giving specifics as to how this was done calling out Minister Castro. Does this concern you any at all that this may actually shake your government down?"


Hon. John Saldivar, Minister of National Security


"At this point in time I would want to think that the Channel 5 report has not provided to me any proof so far but I expect that Mr. Castro will be able to answer from what he has been accused of."


Jules Vasquez- Reporter


"Were you aware of anyone having such an operation where they would have an intermediary who would bring passports and then
you help with the application - you give your recommendation? Were you aware of such a system in operation?"


Hon. John Saldivar, Minister of National Security


"Definitely not - not aware of such an operation."


Jules Vasquez- Reporter


"Wouldn't that fit in with this information of a quota system? Where you could say that you have 20 visas to give this month and then just signed the applications."


Hon. John Saldivar, Minister of National Security


"I think the Minister of Immigration has said that there is no quota system. I don't know of any quota system."

 

And while Penner is yet to face the media, Junior Minister Edmund Castro, who is presently out of the country, did not hesitate to give an over the phone interview to Channel Seven News. We obtained that interview thanks to our colleagues at 7 News and of course, Castor denied being involved in any way in the recent passport and immigration scandal.


Jules Vasquez- Reporter


"Minister, would you say you've heard these allegations about you that you have accepted $2,000 per visa application? You have expedited applications through your office using, using your office and that you have taken a bribe. How do you respond to these allegations?"


Hon. Edmund Castro- Minister of State


"I don't know any such thing. Nobody gave me any money for any paper work. I don't know anything about any processing of any damn visa. I don't even know how this package goes. All these foolishness that I am hearing, I don't know anything about it and I intend to sue. When I get back I will be meeting with my attorney and draft up whatever letter we need to draft up so that we can send Channel 5 a letter because this slandering makes absolutely no sense."


Jules Vasquez- Reporter


"You are saying you did not transact any business with any female bringing Chinese passports for which you would give recommendations for visas. Is that what you are saying?"


Hon. Edmund Castro- Minister of State


"Jules, I don't know anything about any Chinese visa. People come to us as area representative and as minister from time to time requesting and asking to sign documents but I don't know anything about what they are talking about - about they paid me so much money. If those people brought me 100 or 200 paper works for me to sign, I definitely would have seen that a red flag is there and I wouldn't mess with that any at all. I don't even know how a package looks and what it contains to get a visa. Let them bring their proof that they gave me money and whatever they paid me because I don't have any money."


Jules Vasquez- Reporter


"Minister, from time to time we know that everybody has Chinese constituents or know somebody with a Chinese relative. Have you had to expedite visa and have you done this for a fee?"


Hon. Edmund Castro- Minister of State


"No sir. I collect no money for no paper work. I don't ask for any, nobody offered me any. Jules, I would have been so bloody broke if people come knocking my door to bring money for me. I collect no money from nobody at no time."

 

Jules Vasquez- Reporter


"You have had a meeting with someone and you recommend her for some visas."


Hon. Edmund Castro- Minister of State


"Yes."


Jules Vasquez- Reporter


"Do you recall how many it was?"


Hon. Edmund Castro- Minister of State


"There is no way in the neighbourhood of 20, 30 or 40 nor 200 - no way."


Jules Vasquez- Reporter


"Only on one occasion?"


Hon. Edmund Castro- Minister of State


"Only one I could remember. She visited my office more than once, always came crying hard time, but you know what, I don't bring her or carry her. Like what I had told you I didn't get a damn thing from that woman. I can admit that the lady came there with whatever and I sign something for her, but never a day she gave me a damn dollar - not even lunch. Never a day she offer and give us anything - not me or nobody because I had never dealt with her by myself individually."


Contrary to Castro’s denial, part two of a series of interviews aired by Channel 5, which has hit the social media, reveals an anonymous ‘whistle blower’ stating how Castro was paid thousands of dollars for every visa that was facilitated.


Alleged Visa Facilitator


The process would only take two days. If I go to see Minister Castro today, he would have his secretary prepare that letter. She would deliver it to him in front of me. He would then sign on it and take the application form and other paperwork that I take to him and put them in an envelope and deliver it to his secretary who then sends the driver or the messenger to the Immigration office with these applications. That is like maybe today. Tomorrow I would get a call from his secretary saying that the application forms have been approved so I can go into Immigration. I already had the passports so I knew exactly the persons’ name that I was going to pick up the little piece of paper that they give you with the immigration stamp on it. And then they would tell me this is the paper, go to the window and pay. But at that time I wouldn’t have the government money so I would have to come outside, call my contact who gave me the money to pay Minister Castro. And he would then come and bring the cost for the government – like if its six passports I have had approved, the applications, he would bring that twelve thousand dollars that I would pay to the cashier to the government. Then I would get the receipt and leave the passports. Then they would tell me to come back in half an hour or an hour, because the visa would already have been implanted in the passports.”

 

That certainly leaves much room for interpretation and until a thorough investigation proves otherwise, the Government of Belize seems to be crumbling at the seams. But for many Belizeans, the existence of this compelling evidence is undeniable proof that there are those in the Government who care nothing for our birthright and those mercenaries are destroying the image of our country along with its reputation and its security.

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