The Senate Inquiry into  passport irregularities at the  Ministry and Department of Immigration which was interrupted two weeks ago by disturbances from the gallery, resumed this week with spectacular disclosures from an acknowledged  passport player, Mrs. Alverine Burgess.

She explained in detail how the scam wasrun. .      She testified that she was recruited as a runner by a senior police officer whose name she gave as Rochelle Chan.  Chan is related to former Immigration Minister Alvin Penner by reason of his sister’s marriage to Penner.  Chan reportedly told Mrs. Burgess that he used to run a passport hustle for Penner, but that Penner had grown too greedy and he, Chan, eventually withdrew. But he knew that there was good money to be made off passports.  He asked Burgess if she had any good contacts with any of the Ministers.

Mrs. Burgess said she became a runner for Chan when she found that she could do business with Minister Edmund  Castro, and  Chan  began feeding her with money and passport application forms.      .                      .

She testified that Chan would give her a number of passport application forms already filled out, and he would furnish her with $2,000 for each application form. Her job was to go to Minister Castro’s office in Belmopan, deliver the passport forms to him and pay him the agreed sum of $2,000 for each passport.                  .

Minister Castro would accept the money, she said, and the passport forms, and later  would telephone her when it was time to pick up the passports. Minister Castro would attach his personal letter of recommendation to each passport application  and personally send it on to the Immigration Department for processing. Apparently there was an implied understanding at Immigration that whatever the Minister wanted, the Minister would get. This applied not only to  Minister Castro but to other  Ministers of Government who had an open door to the Immigration Department.

Mrs. Burgess explained that after receiving the “go-ahead” from the Minister, she would go to the Immigration Department and pick up the official fee for the new passports, duly processed. She would take these passports to her handler, Rochelle Chan, and Chan would then pay her the sum of $1,500 for each new passport, as compensation for her work as runner.

The evidence before the Senate Select Committee brought  howls of denial  and denunciations from Minister Castro and from Minister  Anthony Martinez, who became a surrogate when Castro was out of the country. Both men have vehemently denied that they had any contact with Mrs. Burgess, and Mr. Castro  has even suggested that Mrs. Burgess was mentally unhinged.

But there is no evidence to back that up!   Mrs. Burgess gave her evidence to the Senate inquiry in an open and  straightforward manner.

She had nothing to hide and nothing to gain  except the ridicule and belligerence she has received at the hands of  UDP stalwarts and from the party newspaper which screamed out the word “Liad” in huge letters on its front page this weekend.

We expect that Assistant Police Superintendent Rochelle Chan and the two ministers will  have an opportunity to testify before the Senate Inquiry.  It will be the one chance they have to clear their names.

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