Among the myriad of issues that came up today is that special list of Ministers who were incessantly intervening in immigration processes. This intervention came in various forms – a recommending letter, a request note signed by the Minister, an impromptu phone call, or perhaps, a special visit to the Immigration office. Former Director, Maria Marin, who replaced Ruth Meighan following Meighan’s removal in 2013, claimed in her testimony two weeks ago that the practice had raised red flags and that the Minister of Immigration Godwin Hulse requested that she keep a special list of those who were meddling in the process. But Meighan saw things differently. Today she testified that during her tenure the involvement of politicians in power were not of much concern to her. Senator Mark Lizarraga, who brought up this issue, reminded her that it was Prime Minister Dean Barrow who linked hustling in visa applications to Alibaba and the 40 thieves.


Mark Lizarraga - Senate Select Committee member


“The Prime Minister went on to say and he was quoted; as saying if I hear you intervene ten times, he say and I hear you intervene twenty times what am I to think except that you are involved in a hustle, those are the Prime Minister’s words and if you hang out with Alibaba you must be one of the forty thieves this is the Prime Minister’s words now we’ve heard Mrs. Elena make reference to those lists that Mrs. Marin saw it fit because she saw a red flag, she thought that the ministers that were constantly in the office promoting and pushing papers or bringing papers and carrying papers and making recommendations that that was a red flag for her but you did not see that as a red flag.”

 

Mark Lizarraga - Senate Select Committee member


“In a period 26th of March, end of March to the end of August, five months, there were some 248 people on this list that words out to about 50 a month. In another list over a period of two days, this was June 6th and 7th 2013, there were 47 such requests in two days of June 2013.  In end of March again to end of May, there were another fifty per month because that list was about 96 people and most of the persons in these lists are Chinese, the vast majority as a matter of fact, and this did not raise a red flag for you, this did not cause you concern and this did not lead you to be as concern as the Prime Minister was when he said if you intervene ten times or if I hear you intervene twenty times what am I to think, you did not think anything of this?”

 

RuthRuth Meighan – Former Immigration Officer


“Because as I said earlier while I was there all those people you made reference to was in 2013 I don’t know if it is the same amount view of references or recommendations we had while I was there but the approval of those VISAS were done based on the information that I received.”


Mark Lizarraga - Senate Select Committee member


“We’ve heard that but I am talking about rising of this red flag that is what I am talking about, am talking about your level of concern.”


And just in case the PM’s remarks back in October 10th 2013 have faded the mind, we found it in our archives to refresh your memory.


Rt. Honourable Dean Barrow -  Prime Minister of Belize


“I understand that politicians have friends and I know that processes can be slow. If a minister says ‘I did ask the Immigration Department to bring some speed to the processing of an application for a visa for a friend,’ – it is entirely legitimate as minister. I satisfied myself that the application for the visa was in order. I can’t say that that is not to happen, but if I hear you intervene 10 times and I hear you intervene 20 times – what I am to think? Except that you’re involved in a hustle. If you hang out with Ali Baba you must be one of the 40 thieves.”


At the time of the P.M’s comment, the Government was facing a major scandal that Ministers, CEOs, and political agents were hustling through the processing of visas, nationality and passports. At least one Minister, Edmond Castro, was publicly shamed when he faced direct allegations.

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