This morning the Senate Inquiry proceeding got underway and testifying before the committee was former Minister Carlos Perdomo. When the United Democratic Party came into power in 2008, Carlos Perdomo was the Minister of Home Affairs, Defence and Immigration. Today, Perdomo came across as unaware of the extent of corruption in the Immigration Department. He admitted today that he did not vet documents presented to him since he relied on those senior officers in his department to do so, pretty much what Elvin Pener said when he appeared before the commission. Perdomo was asked if while he was minister, he had received any reports on serious human trafficking.
Mark Lizzaragua, Senate Select Committee: Human trafficking, whilst you were minister, did you receive reports on serious concerns about Human Trafficking in Belize?
Carlos Perdomo, Former Minister of Immigration: I don’t remember any reports on serious Human Trafficking but the topic was around and I think if I’m not mistaken, Human Development looks after that and the police or whoever would try to support and so forth. It was always a topic particularly from the US Embassy, it’s still a topic from them.
Mark Lizzaragua, Senate Select Committee: And with respect to human trafficking in particular, you don’t recall any particular initiative or thing that you –
Carlos Perdomo, Former Minister of Immigration: I don’t recall any particular report.
Mark Lizzaragua, Senate Select Committee: And how about terrorism and terrorist threats?
Carlos Perdomo, Former Minister of Immigration: It was beginning during that time so – but it wasn’t as hot as today.
Mark Lizzaragua, Senate Select Committee: Right, and specifically with respect to Belize and persons having Belizean passports who were suspected in being involved in terrorist activities.
Carlos Perdomo, Former Minister of Immigration: No I don’t recall but I do know that some countries were on watch or something like that but I don’t recall any particular incident.
Chairman Aldo Salazar questioned Perdomo about the Paul Que incident which was recorded in the Auditor’s General’s report and recounted by Therese Chavarria in her testimony before the committee. Here is that exchange
Aldo Salazar, Chairman, Senate Select Committee: There was a particular incident where the Auditor General refers to in here and also recounted to us in testimony by Miss Chavaria. She recounted that there was a gentleman by the name of Paul Qu who had applied for a passport based on Nationality, and she found out from speaking to the person that he hardly spoke any English yet having claimed that he grew up in Belize. He didn’t know much about Belize City where he supposedly grew up and that sparked some concern in her and she didn’t move forward with the application but then she was visited by a person known generally as Miss Rena, but referred to in this report as Rena Chu Sang Lou. Miss Rena gave her $500 so as to look the other way so to speak, shortly after this happened with Miss Rena, Miss Chaverria said that she went on vacation and she was concerned about this so when she came back from vacation this one of the first things she inquired about and according to her she was told by the director of immigration at that time Miss Ruth Mane that the matter was processed because you gave instructions to do so. She also, – I believe this is recounted here in this document and Miss Chaverria also gave us testimony to that effect. Is this so? Did you have any intervention with Paul Qu’s application?
Carlos Perdomo, Former Minister of Immigration: I did not give any directive, as the report said to the Director of immigration. And I would like to say when I was briefed about this situation, the whole scenario was already completed.
Aldo Salazar, Chairman, Senate Select Committee: The Auditor General says at paragraph 50.1 6 that you said that Miss Rena is a good friend of yours and you got to know here when you were getting involved in politics. Did you say that to the Auditor General?
Carlos Perdomo, Former Minister of Immigration: Yes. Nothing wrong with that. Miss Chaverria is a good friend of mine too I taught her in high school just in case- I have a lot of good friends you know but it doesn’t mean, and I know sometimes this conversation might lead into because da yoh good friend you a help ah but no, I nuh get involved with that.
Thereafter, Senator Elena Smith, still on the topic of Paul Que, pointed out a section in the Auditor’s General’s Report on what was Perdomo’s instruction regarding the processing of the passport for Paul Que.
Elena Smith, Senator, Senate Select Committee: Did you say just now Mr. Perdomo that you were aware of this entire situation with Paul Qu at the end. Would you mind looking at paragraph 50.18 on page 82. This is an interview with yourself. It says “We went on to ask him if he recalled anything in regards to the case of Paul Qu and he responded, ‘ I recall the doubting part in regard about birth certificate but nothing specific” So you remembered the birth certificate, what was the issue about the birth certificate?
Carlos Perdomo, Former Minister of Immigration: When I was briefed, I won’t recall everything but the subject was that she was doubting the verbosity of the birth certificate. She was saying that the birth certificate was not properly done/processed and that she was offered a bribe, that’s what I recall.
Elena Smith, Senator, Senate Select Committee: When you say the birth certificate was not properly processed, does that mean that they somehow thought that the birth certificate was not legitimate?
Carlos Perdomo, Former Minister of Immigration: That’s what Miss Chaverria was saying.
Elena Smith, Senator, Senate Select Committee: Did you come to know that early on still at the end?
Carlos Perdomo, Former Minister of Immigration: No I never knew before, everything I found out in verbal briefing was after the passport was signed.
We’ll have more onteh senate hearing a little later on in our newscast.