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Prime Minister assures investigation into latest dealings at Immigration Department will curb underhanded dealings

Posted: Sunday, February 4, 2024. 9:18 am CST.

Photo Credit: Channel 7 News

By Aaron Humes: About the time reporters were speaking with her new boss Prime Minister John Briceño on Friday, we received confirmation from the CEO of the Ministry of Immigration Tanya Santos that the latest reported money-making scheme at the troubled Immigration Department is being investigated.

The CEO wrote, “I can confirm that we are conducting an investigation into the same and we have placed an officer on administrative leave while the investigation is ongoing.” That officer is reported to be a supervisor at the office.

Channel 7 News, citing sources, reported on Thursday that the scheme consisted of members of staff at the Belize City passport office are alleged to have tricked the system by creating faked revenue collector receipts for new passports. These were entered into the system and the passports issued – but the Government was bilked for the money the passport owners would have paid.

So far there are no details as to how many of the receipts were processed and the length and extent of the fraud.

Prime Minister Briceño, who officially took over the portfolio at the start of the year after Senator Eamon Courtenay exited, reiterated that action is being taken: “The point is that as soon as the ministry was aware of it they acted. Now I can’t go into any details because it is still under investigation. But I [can] assure you that [if there is] any wrongdoing that has been done and if they get any evidence, they are going to act on it immediately.”

The P.M. added that under his watch no more of that behavior will be tolerated, even facing human nature: “I think I would want to look at it slightly different than being a black eye. The Ministry [will not] tolerate that kind of behavior from our officers and whenever it comes to our attention we are going to act. Remember it is human nature we are dealing with here. As much as we put the proper processes in place, people [who] want to do something wrong are going to try to be as creative as possible as they can be, in this instance, I believe to defraud the government in this case at the Ministry of Immigration.”


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