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    Tuesday, 15 August 2017 02:49
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It was a very heavy day for the members of the Senate Select Committee as three crucial witnesses to the investigation into the Auditor General’s special audit report appeared in one day. After refusing an invitation to show up three Wednesdays ago, both the former Belize City Council Deputy Mayor Eric Chang and the former Belize City Council financial controller Patrick Tillett submitted to a summons to appear today and answer questions about their involvement in allegations of wrongdoing in immigration.


We’ll start with former politician Eric Chang who, guided by attorney Emil Arguelles, began his presentation with a prepared statement in which he claimed that he was ready to break his silence.


Screen_Shot_2017-03-08_at_8.20.48_PMEric Chang - Former UDP Deputy Mayor


“When I received you first correspondent, I took it to my first attorney who advise that it wasn’t mandatory to attend, I took that advice even though I have been wanted to say my side for long time, I received your second correspondent and I sought a second opinion from another lawyer who advise me that it is best for me to appear as I wanted to and to tell my side and that I am in no criminal or civil jeopardy, I now appear freely and without fear to voluntarily with my legal right to remain silence, I now stand ready to answer any question you may have and see this hearing as an opportunity to clear my name in all this matter, thank you.”


To better understand today’s series of testimonies we’ll start with the second witness, Patrick Tillett, who is in the center of the unresolved matter of visas that disappeared from the supposed secure storage areas at the Western Border in either November or December 2012. In previous testimonies by senior immigration officials, we have heard the extent of their investigations into the missing visas, so today’s explanations by the Belize City-based accountant is significant. Tillett confessed today that six visas ended up in his possession after he creatively ventured into the business of visa services and paid an agent to facilitate their application and processing. Tillett told the Committee members that he charged $6,000 for those services, which was used to pay the visa fee and an immigration agent. But Tillet’s admissions didn’t satisfy the Committee members who became highly suspicious of who was getting what and why.


Senator Eamon Courtney – Member Special Senate Select Committee


“And then for the agent to take it to the Immigration Department and follow up is what you said?”


Patrick Tillette


“Yes”


Screen_Shot_2017-03-08_at_8.20.59_PMSenator Eamon Courtney – Member Special Senate Select Committee


“Three Thousand dollars for that?”


Patrick Tillette


“Yes”


Senator Eamon Courtney – Member Special Senate Select Committee


“And the fee to the government is two thousand all of this was above board?”


Patrick Tillette


“Yes”


Senator Eamon Courtney – Member Special Senate Select Committee


“So what was the necessity for paying you a thousand and paying three thousand to this person if it’s all above board?”

 

Patrick Tillette


“I suspect that when the, they don’t have confidence, that if they apply they will get one.”


Senator Eamon Courtney – Member Special Senate Select Committee


“Who are they? I don’t understand?”


Patrick Tillette


“The clients don’t have confident in doing it themselves so they pay for it.”


Senator Eamon Courtney – Member Special Senate Select Committee


“But its above board, they have fulfilled their requirements and you have assured them of that so why are they paying three thousand dollars for?”


Patrick Tillette


“People are willing to pay.”


Senator Eamon Courtney – Member Special Senate Select Committee


“I understand that, but you’re in the business, what are they paying three thousand dollars for?”


Patrick Tillette


“I just explained to you what they paying for, for me to handle the processing for them.”


Senator Eamon Courtney – Member Special Senate Select Committee


“What is there to handle, you go in to the office?”


Patrick Tillette


“I sent an agent.”


Senator Eamon Courtney – Member Special Senate Select Committee


“What does the agent do?”


Patrick Tillette


“He handles it.”


Senator Eamon Courtney – Member Special Senate Select Committee


“What does that mean?”


Patrick Tillette


“He should file it to the Immigration Department and handle any if there is a discrepancy, there is any follow up that is what he would handle.”


Senator Eamon Courtney – Member Special Senate Select Committee


“Let’s, go step by step, didn’t you tell us that you check to make sure that everything was in order.”


Patrick Tillette


“Yes”


Senator Eamon Courtney – Member Special Senate Select Committee


“And you got a thousand dollars”


Patrick Tillette


“Yes”


Senator Eamon Courtney – Member Special Senate Select Committee


“Yes, and then you handed it to the agent and gave him five thousand dollars to follow up and I want to know what did the agent do by way of follow up?”


Patrick Tillette


“It may be that…”


Senator Eamon Courtney – Member Special Senate Select Committee


“Not maybe we are speaking about these specific things.”


Patrick Tillette


“He may have nothing to do except send it to Belmopan and make his money.”


Senator Eamon Courtney – Member Special Senate Select Committee


“He has nothing to do except what?”


Patrick Tillette


“Except taking it to Belmopan and file it”


Senator Eamon Courtney – Member Special Senate Select Committee


“You are telling this Committee under oath that your clients are paying three thousand dollars to take documents to Belmopan and leave them there?”


Patrick Tillette


“Yes”


Senator Eamon Courtney – Member Special Senate Select Committee


“Three Thousand Dollars”


Patrick Tillette


“Yes”


Senator Eamon Courtney – Member Special Senate Select Committee


“You find that credible?”


More mind-boggling to the Committee members was the fact that despite the visas being illegally acquired and improperly issued, Tillett kept the issue hush and chose to absorb the losses from his failed attempt to obtain proper visas for six clients. At $6,000 a pop, that’s $36,000 which he had to cough up to reimburse dissatisfied clients. The Committee members were very sceptical that Tillett was telling the truth.

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