General — 15 July 2017 — by Micah Goodin
“I don’t know the Harmouchs”, said Minister Montero

BELMOPAN, Cayo District, Wed. July 12, 2017–Cayo Central area representative, Rene Montero, today testified before the Senate Select Committee tasked with investigating the Auditor General Dorothy Bradley’s Special Audit of the Immigration Department which documented major irregularities and illegalities.

Montero was named in relation to the shady issuance of nationality certificates to two Lebanese individuals —Saad Harmouch and Wael Harmouch, based in San Pedro Town, which falls within the Belize Rural South constituency.

That didn’t stop him from requesting facilitation for them, according to the Auditor General

When the committee asked why was it that he had recommended the two persons for nationality certificates even though they were not his constituents, Montero used the Immigration Department as his scapegoat.

His explanations left our newspaper with more questions than answers regarding election fraud and the politicization of our public institutions.

Montero claimed that the Immigration Department had contacted his political office indicating that there were 7 Belizean nationality applications available and that those applicants would be able to participate in the swearing in ceremony of January 2012, just before the General Elections, if he had written a letter of recommendation.

Montero conceded to writing the recommendations, but with the view that they were for his constituents in Cayo Central.

He said that he didn’t know that the Harmouchs would have been on that list, but according to all indications, he didn’t even check.

According to him, he was simply servicing his people.

However, these seven persons could not be his “people,” because they had not yet taken the oath of allegiance to Belize.

Also questionable was why these applicants would have needed an urgent letter from him if their applications were already approved and they were well on their way to citizenship.

From all indications, it appears that this was just done to facilitate the voters list leading up to the 2012 elections.

Even more alarming was why the Immigration Department would contact Montero’s political office for immigration matters.

When the Senate Select Committee delved into the matter, Montero denied knowing the Harmouchs he had recommended.

Here is a portion of the exchange that took place when Montero was questioned:

Senator Michel Chebat: “Was Wael Harmouch of your constituency, Minister?”

Montero: “I don’t know him.”

Chebat: “Why would the Auditor General then include him as one of the individuals who you had requested facilitation for?”

Montero: “I think you have to refer that question to her. I maintain that I do not know the Harmouchs. I never met them, never dealt with them, I have never done any dealing with them directly or indirectly. I have never received any considerations from them. I don’t know them, period.”

Chebat: “Did you see this report before coming here today?”

Montero: “Yes, I did.”

Chebat: “Did you at any time try to clarify with the Auditor General that statements made by her were inaccurate?”

Montero: “No.”

Chebat: “You see how it is a bit difficult for us to try and follow what is happening? You’re denying that you know these people, but in the letter you sent, you’re quoting their bna numbers.

Would you care to explain to us?”

Montero: “Well, Senator, I could have come here and tell you from the very beginning that I don’t know these people, that I did not write the letter. I’m trying to be truthful. As I mentioned before, and keep repeating, that someone from Immigration Department gave us the list of bna numbers and based on that, I instructed my secretary to make a request.”

When Montero left today’s hearing, he was informed that the committee had the right to call him again to testify if that need arises.

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