Revelations and allegations on the passport scandal continue to heat up

vlcsnap-2013-10-15-08h40m50s162The Immigration Department has been shaken to its core. For the past month, reports of illicit acts by former Minister of State Elvin Penner, at the passport and immigration departments, has taken over airwaves, social media and domestic discussions. Each week, new shockers are revealed, exposing a serious problem of lapses and errors within the country’s Immigration sector. And this week proved no different, as last night, a woman told the media that she sat front row to an alleged visa hustle, orchestrated by Ministers, who aid foreigners in the acquiring of visas by sidestepping the statutory procedure. It is referred to as a visa quota system, where Ministers are reportedly afforded a quota of certain numbers of visas to process and profit from. The informant, who chose to remain anonymous, made some serious allegations against Minister of State in the Ministry of Works and Transport, Edmund Castro, in an interview with Channel 5News. She claims that she aided in obtaining visas for Chinese Nationals and Minister Castro was her go-to minister. We have obtained a copy of that interview from 5News, and tonight we show you how she says she became involved in the practice, as well as the alleged course taken for the issuance of the visas.

Alleged Visa Facilitator:   “A young man who heard me talking to someone about this nationality issue approached me and he told me if I wanted to get into something bigger… that getting a visa pays more and if I would like to try it.   So, I said, okay.    We can work together; I’ll try it.    And he got in touch with me, we sat down and he told me that he is a very close relative or something of Mr. Penner and he used to work with Penner but Mr. Penner was too greedy, so maybe I could know another minister who could help me with the process because I know a lot of ministers.    And I told him yes.    So, I got in touch with Minister Edmund Castro and I asked him first about it and he said sure we could work on it.”

Reporter:  “Was money discussed at that time?”

Alleged Visa Facilitator“Money was discussed at that time. He said, you know, that has a cost. And we talked about it over the phone…how much was the cost.   He said well I’m going to charge you like two thousand for each one, per passport visa.   When I got the application forms and everything I would contact Minister Castro that maybe the next day I would be coming to your office and he would say well okay I’ll be there.   And when I go to his office, well obviously this wasn’t the first time that something of that nature was being done through Minister Castro’s office because when I took the application and everything there he would then mention to his secretary, ”well, I want you to prepare six of those letters, those recommendations off the computer for immigration”.

Reporter:   “So your contact, the one who came to you in the first place – he would bring what to you?”

Alleged Visa Facilitator“He would bring the application formed, the Chinese passports and the money, but the money he would bring is only Minister Castro’s money. My money and the government’s money would have to wait until the process is finished. Okay, so when I go to Minister Castro’s office, before he has his secretary do these letters, I have to pay him first.   He would say well let me see what you have for me…how much money.    One time when I took twelve thousand dollars for six passports he said, “ah, come on, you know you’re making more than this…I think I should be paid three thousand for one but then I told him I can’t do that”.

The insider claims that she facilitated the granting of visas to at least two hundred Chinese nationals in a six month period – October 2012 to March 2013. The travel documents were allegedly sold at two thousand per piece – that’s calculates to some $400,000. She alleges that it was a quick hustle, one that took only two days.

Voice of: Visa Facilitator:  “The process would only take two days. If I go to see Minister Castro today, he would have his secretary prepare that letter. She would deliver it to him in front of me.   He would then sign on it and take the application form and other paperwork that I take to him and put them in an envelope and deliver it to his secretary who then sends the driver or the messenger to the Immigration office with these applications.   That is like maybe today.   Tomorrow,  I would get a call from his secretary saying that the application forms have been approved so I can go into Immigration.   I already had the passports so I knew exactly the persons’ name that I was going to pick up the little piece of paper that they give you with the immigration stamp on it. And then they would tell me this is the paper, go to the window and pay.   But at that time I wouldn’t have the government money so I would have to come outside, call my contact who gave me the money to pay Minister Castro.   And he would then come and bring the cost for the government…like if its six passports I have had approved, the applications, he would bring that twelve thousand dollars that I would pay to the cashier to the government.   Then, I would get the receipt and leave the passports.   Then, they would tell me to come back in half an hour or an hour, because the visa would already have been implanted in the passports”.

Reporter:  Could you give me an idea of how many of these things you have done?   You said you did it on a weekly basis?”

Alleged Visa Facilitator“I did probably about two hundred…about two hundred”.

Reporter: “Primarily for who…Chinese, Indian?”

Voice of: Visa Facilitator:  “Only Chinese”.

The passport, visa included, would be delivered to the contact person, who would in turn hand it over to the Chinese national. They reportedly then employed the visa to gain entry to Belize and travel to the northern border to the US. We attempted to contact Edmund Castro for comment, but he is presently out of the country.

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