In the afternoon session, whistleblower Alvarine Burgess was the witness. Burgess alleges that she and Minister Edmond Castro were business partners in a visa scheme where he recommended applicants for a fee of $2000 per visa. Burgess was not featured in the Auditor General’s report but because the matter with Castro had gone to court and was all over the media, it is believed that Burgess may have some insight into the way the visa hustle works. Burgess explained ht she was introduced into the work by the brother- in -law of Elvin Penner, a Mr. Chan who is actually a police officer stationed in Hattieville. Today, Burgess explained how the visa scheme worked with Edmond Castro.
Alvarine Burgess: I got paid like $1500.00 for each trip I came up here.
Alvarine Burgess: By Mister Chan, he was the person that dealt with all of the finances
Hon. Aldo Salazar: Okay so for each trip you for 1,500 dollars. Simply to go to the minister’s office, deliver a package to him and that’s it?
Alvarine Burgess: No I went to the minister’s office, paid him what he requested me to pay him first, he was the first one who collected. If I took 6 passports and the application form with the necessary requirements, I had to take 12,000 dollars to him. If I took 4, I had to take 8,000 dollars to him for that recommendation letter which his secretary would – they had it in their computer system. They only needed to change the name because the recommendation letter were already posted in that computer that I Minister Castro is recommending and the names go on that letter and he would take everything all the applications except the passports, the Chinese passports, give it to his secretary who they would then get it to the immigration office. In a day or two I would be called by the secretary to tell me that the applications were approved and I had to get back to Chan and tell him there were approved and he would get to me with the money, the 2,000 dollars per approved visa and I would take the books be it 4 or 6 with the money to the immigration department.
Alvarine Burgess: The passports and the money that you pay to the government because each-
Hon. Aldo Salazar: Hold on wait, you said that – they stayed with the passport?
Alvarine Burgess: I kept the passports, I only gave Mr. Castro the papers, the application form that has the supporting letter, the stamps and whatever else was necessary.
Chaiman Salazar was interested in what Burges did with the money she made.
Hon. Aldo Salazar: You did this every week? (Mhm) For six months? (Mhm,Yes) Sometimes more than once a week? (Yes) So you collected several thousand dollars? (Yes) Where did you deposit that money, did you –
Alvarine Burgess: I never had a break to deposit that money because apart from having to take my husband every 3 months to Merida, he had a heart condition where he was on 11 medications, our hospitals only have 2 and I had to buy the rest for the month, the plavics alone is $297.00 for the pack. And I had to buy the other medications, so this venture was assisting me in helping my husband who was ill.
Hon. Aldo Salazar: I understand that from what I read. I want to know what you did with the money. Did you keep it on your person? Did you deposit it in a financial institution?
Alvarine Burgess: No I never deposit it anywhere.
Hon. Aldo Salazar: So you just kept the money and you went spending it along the way?
Hon. Aldo Salazar: I’m not saying – listen to the questions carefully. You collected, sometimes between $1,500 and $4,500 per week from this enterprise which you admit. I am asking you, did you have a bank account during that time?
Alvarine Burgess: No.
Hon. Aldo Salazar: You’ve never had a bank account?
Alvarine Burgess: We had a bank account when my husband was working. I was getting- this venture was a big plus for me because I was the breadwinner of the home .
Hon. Aldo Salazar: Wait man, I understand. I understand you are eager to explain but I’m asking you a question. During this period, September 2012 to April 2013, you never had a bank account?
Alvarine Burgess: We had a bank account but I wasn’t depositing any money.
Hon. Aldo Salazar: So you didn’t deposit any money into that bank account?
Alvarine Burgess: No.
Hon. Aldo Salazar: So you kept all of it where?
Alvarine Burgess: I am explaining. I couldn’t deposit it because as quick as I got this assistance, I had to use it.
Hon. Aldo Salazar: But you had to take it home I presume. When you had it you took it home (Yes) And you spent it from home as the need arose?
Alvarine Burgess: Yes. I had to pay bills. I had a household of 6 and $4000.00 a week, that’s not going very far.
Burgess says that she was questioned by the US Embassy and ended up telling them about the visa scheme. She says she denied it at first but was presented with audio recording of her and Castro having a conversation.
Alvarine Burgess: It was like 2 recordings.
Hon. Aldo Salazar: You don’t remember the identity of the person? You don’t remember the conversation of what it was about? But you remember that there was a recording of a conversation? (Yes) Do you know that charge d’ affairs denied that they ever presented you with any recordings?
Alvarine Burgess: Yes I know they denied. And, I could state that I had more than one meeting with the agent from the embassy because I could tell you that after that interview there, we met about two more times after that because they wanted me to give them more information.
Hon. Aldo Salazar: Well I don’t think they denied meeting with you. I think the denial was in relation to – what Miss Margaret Hawthorn said is that I can assure you that the US Embassy has not recorded anyone in connection with this matter.
Alvarine Burgess: I never met Miss Hawthorn. I met three gentlemen, they were two clear, white person and a dark. They introduced themselves to me but I don’t remember their name because it’s been so long.
Hon. Aldo Salazar: So that statement is untruthful, that there was no recording?
Alvarine Burgess: There was recording.
Hon. Aldo Salazar: Okay 1, 2, 3, how many recording were there?
Alvarine Burgess: There were about 2 recordings.
Hon. Aldo Salazar: Okay 1 was with you and another person who you don’t recall and what was the other one about?
Alvarine Burgess: One was with me, Mister Castro, and a person. And one was with me –
Hon. Aldo Salazar: Aha the conversation in that one was about what?
Alvarine Burgess: Like I mentioned, I don’t remember.
Alvarine Burgess: I said what he was saying, what we were talking about.
Hon. Aldo Salazar: You said that Mister Castro spoke to you about coming to meet him.
Alvarine Burgess: That was one of the recording. There were 2 recordings. One was with me and him when I called him and asked, told him I wanted to come and see him and he mentioned to me where I would meet him. That is on one of the recording.
She says she got scared and spilled the beans, calling not only Castro’s name but Erwin Contreras and Anthony Boots Martinez who she says facilitated the recommendations for her when Castro was out of the country. She says she paid Martinez the 2000 ut not Contreras who did it just as a favor. There was much more from today’s senate hearing and we hope to bring you more of that in subsequent newscasts.