On Friday, we told you of the lengths to which Prime Minister Dean Barrow avoided the press on his return from Los Angeles, California, by having his personal vehicle taken to the airport tarmac, stopping only to greet party supporters who made a rare appearance. One day later, it was the same story as members of the media including PLUS News camped out at the Philip Goldson International Airport (PGIA) awaiting the return of Minister of State for Transport, Edmund Castro, from a conference. He was to arrive on an American Airlines flight from Miami, Florida. Castro was publicly accused last week of facilitating visa applications through his office and collecting the profits. A female whistleblower came forward with details provided to another media house, as well as the US Embassy. And on Friday, she made a formal report to the Ombudsman, Lionel Arzu. There, her report was recorded in full by the attorney at the office of the Ombudsman. Castro issued a blanket denial via telephone on Thursday, admitting only that he had, on one occasion, signed recommendations for the woman. But any hopes of getting further comment from the embattled Government Minister were thwarted when “Clear the Land” pulled a surprise, departing from the aircraft directly to one of two vehicles parked on the airport tarmac. It appears one of the vehicles acted as a decoy to allow Edmund Castro to evade the press.
While Mr Castro did not speak to the press on his arrival, he did issue a formal statement on the allegations made against himAs you may know, last week “Clear the Land” Castro made headlines in relation to the alleged practice of the sale of visas. Channel 5 spoke with a woman, Alverine Burgess last week who made an ominous allegation; that Edmund Castro collected four hundred thousand dollars as payment for having procured the issuance of two hundred Belize visas for her. According to a press release issued on Monday, Mr Castro out rightly rejected those accusations; calling them viciously false and malicious. According to the Press Release, Edmund Castro concedes, that at some point in time, he did write a letter for one Alverine Burgess recommending consideration of 5 visa applications which were then to be lodged at the Department of Immigration; but as for issuing visas, he claims he has no such power to do so. The Press release expressed Mr Castro’s resentment that Alverine Burgess, whom he allegedly tried to assist out of courtesy “…should now turn around and lie so shamelessly on him.” Furthermore, the press release stated that Mr Castro has sought legal services and is looking into a law suit against Channel 5- who first aired the story locally and also aired it internationally- and Alverine Burgess to demand a retraction and an apology. Mr Castro further claims it is all political on the part of Channel 5 to malign such stories against a UDP Minister.