No one checked Nationality Certificates?

Yesterday, Addy Pacheco returned to sit before the Senate Select Inquiry into the Auditor General’s report on the passport, nationality and visa sections of the Immigration Department.  As we told you yesterday, Pacheco has constantly placed blame for the processing of fake nationality certificates for passport applications at the feet of her supervisors. She is the front line person who receives the documents but says that it was never her job to check the authenticity of the documents. We have heard the same thing from Ministers and Senior Immigration officers. IT’s not their job to check the documents; that’s the front line persons’ job they say. If it was no one’s job, then who is to blame?  The Auditor General, in her reports, indicated that they had reviewed documents from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which suggested that an illegitimate Belize Economic Citizenship program had been operating abroad with links to the immigration department. The report further said that that they reviewed 2 Passport Applications that held copies of fraudulent replacement nationality certificates that were backdated.

Mark Lizarraga, Senator, Senate Select Committee: Under what scenarios would a Nationality certificate be back dated Miss Pacheco?

Addy Pacheco, Clerk, Immigration Department: I have no idea. We don’t sign on to Nationality certificates and nationality certificates are, when they’re prepared they don’t have a date. It’s the minister who is signing that specific certificate, he writes the date when he signs that certificate.

Mark Lizarraga, Senator, Senate Select Committee: So if a Nationality certificate would have a wrong date or a back date- that date?

Addy Pacheco, Clerk, Immigration Department: That date would not be placed there by any officer.vlcsnap-00401

Mark Lizarraga, Senator, Senate Select Committee: It’s the minister that signs and then puts the date that he signs and then that is the date that this nationality certificate becomes legal so to speak?

Addy Pacheco, Clerk, Immigration Department: Yes.

Mark Lizarraga, Senator, Senate Select Committee: So the minister then would be responsible for dating the nationality certificates?

Addy Pacheco, Clerk, Immigration Department: Yes.

Eamon Courtenay, Senate, Senate Select Committee: Do you see what the Auditor General is suggesting there? That the necessity to back vlcsnap-00402date, and you’re saying that that would have been done by the minister, was to give the impression that that person obtained nationality under the Economic citizenship Program which had been discontinued at the time when the certificate was issued?

Mark Lizarraga, Senator, Senate Select Committee: The Auditor General continues to make this case, and why it is important for us to question you is because everybody that we’ve heard from before is pointing down to the front line person as having been the source of legitimizing these documents.

Chair Aldo Salazar reviewed one of the instances of suspected Fake Nationality certificates as mentioned by the Auditor General in her report. 

Aldo Salazar, Chair, Senate Select Committee: When the person applied for social security card, the person did not use her passport to apply for that social security card. She used the dependent permit to apply for the social security card in 2002. So the Auditor General, I believe does notvlcsnap-00406 have conclusive evidence that it was fraudulent, but it’s a logical conclusion to arrive at because she is saying that if you have a passport at the time when you applied for Social Security registration you’d have used that passport and not the dependency. So that is how she arrived at that conclusion. You were being asked about the fake nationality itself, it’s more of an opinion on whether they could have forged that etc etc. but that’s not necessarily my issue with you because that is a matter which would have involved other persons. My issue with you is that accepted the nationally which apparently was fraudulent. Now, your answer to me on the last occasion was that you accepted it at face value but my question is why would you not have checked the nationality? A simply check of the nationality register would have revealed if it was fraudulent. Why when you were accepting documents, why did you not go back and reference that nationality certificate to verify if it was legally issued?

Addy Pacheco, Clerk, Immigration Department: Because that was not practiced at the time. Nothing was verified at the time.

Aldo Salazar, Chair, Senate Select Committee: I understand it wasn’t part of the procedure to do so, but in terms for your own due diligence you didn’t see it necessary to do that?vlcsnap-00403

 Addy Pacheco, Clerk, Immigration Department: At the time no sir.

 According to Salazar, there were several examples of inaccuracies in one particular case. He said all it would have taken was for someone of the four persons stationed in the section receiving the documents to check them. However, Pacheco responded by saying they received no training in that section.

Aldo Salazar, Chair, Senate Select Committee: There’s a Zen Xu Cheng which was a nationality file and passport application. I’m just going to read to you the things that the auditor general highlighted. She said that Zen Xu Cheng used a stolen Belizean Manual passport issued 17th July 2002 to apply for a police report. It says she applied for Belizean Nationality through marriage to Go Hing Cheng, holder of Belizean Nationality Certificate dated February 20th 2007 signed by Minister Ralph Fonseca and he had Belizean passport number XYZ whatever it was issued 26th February 2007. So she applied for nationality through her husband who had gotten nationality in 2007 and was issued a passport in 2007. She also requested on her application that her child, Xeona Cheng, born in China on 9th June 2000 be added to her certificate. The auditor general said she saw no copy of her birth certificate to show that Xeona Cheng was the daughter of Zen Xu Cheng. There was a declaration form dated 10th January 2012 on which she requested the addition of this child but she did not declare that the child was her daughter in the absence of an official birth certificate. So the application was to add a child, there was no birth certificate, no declaration that the person was her child. Also saw a copy of an irregular Chinese Passport issued 13th February 2009 which appeared as though it had manipulated, this is the applicant’s passport. And then it says on Zen Xu Cheng Belizean nationality passport application she indicated that she lived in Pomona, she observed that the referees were from Belmopan, she was also recommended for her Belizean nationality by a police officer Ricardo Chi of Belmopan, and Dalila Donis of the same address in Belmopan who both stated that they knew her for three (3) years. But, they recognized that Dalila Donnis was not a legal referee because she was not born in Belize. So we have one already, there’s no birth certificate, there’s no declaration saying that it’s her child, the passport seems irregular, the referee is not Belizean in accordance to what the requirement is. Addition it say, “The section of the application for information on spouse was not completed by the applicant,” she did not even fully complete the form, “there were two unofficial marriage certificates and the certificate of translations in the file.” And she goes on. She has issues with translation and the photo and she goes on to point out other issues that she had. These sort of issues point to a breakdown, some level of carelessness I would say in the department when accepting documents.vlcsnap-00405

 Addy Pacheco, Clerk, Immigration Department: There was no checklist at the time. There was nothing given to us like follow this. And there was no training either and I don’t think we received any training when working in that section.



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