Corruption at Immigration Department

The content originally appeared on: Amandala Newspaper

Photo: Hon. Eamon Courtenay, Minister of Immigration

by Charles Gladden

BELIZE CITY, Mon. Feb. 6, 2023

When discussing the most recent discovery of Belizean passports in the possession of Chinese nationals who had just entered the country, the Minister of Immigration, Hon. Eamon Courtenay expressed disappointment in the fact that some type of fraudulent operation has been ongoing.

In mid-January, it was reported that 9 Chinese nationals who landed in Belize were found with permanent residency cards, despite the fact that they had never spent any time in the country prior to their arrival.

Those Chinese nationals didn’t make it farther than the Philip Goldson International Airport, as they were detained by the Immigration Department personnel and sent back to their country of origin.

Minister Courtenay highlighted during a press conference last Thursday that the Chinese migrants were coming from a part of China from which most Chinese immigrants to Belize do not typically come, which caught the attention of Immigration personnel.

“It was observed that an unusually high number of Chinese nationals were coming from a specific part of China which is not where most Chinese come from who come to Belize. That was flagged by the Director, who informed me, and we asked for the files, and it became immediately apparent that fraud had been committed, and from there the investigations have proceeded,” said Hon. Courtenay.

He also noted that, besides the initial nine Chinese immigrants who were caught that day, more were discovered to have fraudulent permanent residency.

“There is an active investigation ongoing in relation to fraudulent permanent residence cards that we have discovered, and there are more than nine. The Commissioner of Police has provided a senior police officer from the CIB. We have consulted with the Director of Public Prosecutions who has advised as to what investigations and statements are to be taken, and those are being done. I do not wish to prejudice that investigation, but what I will say is this: I have been shown files where it is clear as day that fraud has been committed, permanent resident cards have been issued fraudulently. Those that we have seen have been cancelled, and it is my expectation that there will be an investigation and a report by the police. I will hope that whoever was involved in it will have their day in court,” Hon. Courtenay said.

Hon. Courtenay noted that the acts of fraud occurred during the current PUP administration, but said that the recent shuffling of positions within the Ministry is not related to the situation. But regardless of who is responsible for what has occurred, Courtenay said that he is disappointed.

“I am very disappointed. I am aggrieved, to use your word. I don‘t want to say too much because, unlike the ComPol, I prefer to let paper and let witnesses do the talking and not to say anything that would prejudice ongoing investigations. But what we have seen is serious, and we have put in place measures to address it,” he said.