BELMOPAN, Cayo District, Thurs. Mar. 9, 2017–For weeks the Senate Select Committee has been zeroing in on the case of 8 missing visa stickers that were reportedly stolen from the Western Border Station in December of 2012.
According to the Auditor General’s Special Report, the stolen visa stickers were bought by former Belize City Council Deputy Mayor Eric Chang and the Council’s financial controller, Patrick Tillett.
On Wednesday, Tillett appeared in front of the Senate Select Committee and confirmed that he had been in possession of 6 of those visa stickers for 6 visa applications for Chinese nationals.
According to Tillett, he simply completed the application forms and passed them to a man identified only as “Mr. Middleton”, who delivered them to the Immigration Department and oversaw their completion.
Tillett revealed that for every application processed, he collected six thousand dollars — $3,000 was paid to Mr. Middleton, $2,000 was paid to the Government of Belize and he, Tillett, collected the balance of one thousand dollars.
Here is a verbatim transcript of how that was revealed:
Senator Aldo Salazar: “…How much did you charge for the service?”
Salazar: “You charged $6,000 per visa application?”
Tillett: “That’s inclusive of the government fee of two thousand dollars, so really my fee is four thousand.”
Salazar: “So you charge 4 thousand to make sure the visa application was filled out properly?”
Tillett: “I actually paid the agent 3 thousand.”
Salazar: “…What was he supposed to do, the agent?”
Tillett: “He was supposed to file the visa application with the Immigration Department and follow it through until the completion.”
Salazar: “These six clients in particular, where were they from?”
Tillett: “China; they were Chinese applications.”
Senator Mark Lizarraga: “You paid Mr. Middleton $3,000?”
Lizarraga: “That includes the two thousand?”
Tillett: “I paid him five, which would include the $2,000 for the Immigration Department.”
However, Opposition Senator, Eamon Courtenay would not let Tillett off the hook easily. Here is a verbatim transcript of their exchange:
Courtenay: “Do you find it believable that clients are going to pay $3,000 for someone to take properly filled out documents to Belmopan and leave it there?”
Courtenay: “I want to suggest to you Mr. Tillett, you’re under oath, that that is unbelievable. Do you agree with me or do you disagree?”
Tillett: “I don’t know what is unbelievable…”
Courtenay: “In this particular case, what did the agent do with those six visa applications?”
Tillett: “I would not know what he did with the visa applications because in hindsight, it appears that he actually stole the visas.”
Courtenay: “He did what?”
Tillett: “He stole the visa foils.”
Courtenay: “The agent stole them?”
Tillett: “Well, let me not say he stole them.”
Courtenay: “You just said that…”
Tillett: “Well, somebody stole them and gave it to the agent, apparently.”
Courtenay: “And the agent brought the six visas to you?”
Tillett: “The agent didn’t bring me the six visas. He brought back the passports with the visas with them as if though they were genuine and authentic.”
Courtenay: “What happened when you got them?”
Tillett: “I gave them to the people concerned and one of them came back and said that the visa wasn’t properly filled out and I returned the visa to Belmopan and showed Mr. Reynolds.
Mr. Reynolds said these visas are genuine visas, they are authentic, they only need to…the person seemed to have missed off the stamp and the signature.
“I returned it to the agent so it could be properly issued because what I wanted was properly issued visas from the Department of Immigration.
Chairman of the Senate Select Committee, Aldo Salazar, could not comprehend why Tillett would pay Mr. Middleton $3,000 to simply carry one application to the Immigration Department when Tillett lived in Belmopan, just a few streets away from the office.
According to Tillett, he worked in Belize City and simply did not have the time do so.
Additionally, Tillett claimed that when he realized the visa stickers were stolen and that the visas were not genuine, he simply returned the monies to his clients from his bank account, as he could not locate Mr. Middleton to recover the monies he had paid him.