BELMOPAN, Cayo District, Wed. Mar. 22, 2017–The Auditor General’s Special Audit into the Passport, Visa and Nationality Departments of the Immigration Ministry revealed that 8 visa stickers were discovered missing from the Western Border in December 2012.
A report from Immigration officer Vernon Leslie, reproduced in the audit, alleged that former Immigration officer Lindsay Wade had removed the stickers and given them to a man identified only as “Mr. Middleton,” who, he also alleged, was the common-law husband of Immigration officer Inez Cassanova.
Middleton reportedly travelled to Belize City and sold the visas to former Deputy Mayor, Eric Chang, and the Council’s Financial Controller, Patrick Tillett.
Since the onset of these hearings, no one has been able to confirm Middleton’s first name or his whereabouts until today, Wednesday, when Cassanova appeared in front of the Senate Select Committee tasked with investigating the Auditor General’s report.
While she denied being intimately involved with Middleton, and even threatened a lawsuit against anyone who kept repeating that she had a relationship with him, she did help to unmask his identity. Here is an excerpt from the exchange in which she revealed a bit about Middleton:
Salazar: “Do you know a Mr. Middleton?”
Cassanova: “I know a Mr. Middleton; he used to work with me at the Orange Walk Immigration; his name is Mr. Eugene Middleton. He worked there, but presently, he is retired. And I also know another Middleton; he is his brother.”
Salazar: “What is the name of his brother?”
Cassanova: “Barton Middleton.”
Salazar: “Eugene Middleton was working with you in Orange Walk? What period did he work with you in Orange Walk?”
Cassanova: “I’d say six years ago.”’
Salazar: “What about Mr. Barton Middleton?”
Cassanova: “Mr. Barton Middleton does not work at the Immigration Department; he is not an Immigration officer.”
Senator Elena Smith: “How did you get to know Mr. Barton Middleton?”
Cassanova: “I got to know him through his brother, because his brother worked in Orange Walk with me at that time.”
Salazar: “Do you know where Barton Middleton is from?”
Cassanova: “I knew Mr. Middleton from Orange Walk due to his brother, who worked in Orange Walk.”
Salazar: “Do you know where he lived?”
Cassanova: “No, Sir; I just know he lived in Orange Walk.”
During a previous Senate hearing, Immigration officer Mark Tench, testified that Cassanova was present in a vehicle at the Calypso restaurant while Middleton met with Patrick Tillett, Eric Chang and other Immigration officers to discuss the validity of the stolen visa foils.
Here is how Cassanova responded to those claims:
Salazar: “Is that true?”
Cassanova: “It’s not true. I have never been to Calypso. I have never been in no meeting.”
Salazar: “It’s not that you were in the meeting; nobody said that you were in the meeting. The question is, were you present outside in a vehicle at the time of the meeting?”
Cassanova: “No, sir.”
Smith: “The matter, Miss Cassanova, of your being at the Calypso, as the Chair had asked before, you had been identified by two persons, because we were told that you were identified because the person knows your brother, who works at BTL, and that is how they were able to say, specifically, that you were the one in the vehicle at the Calypso.”
Cassanova: “I might have been in that vehicle…I am not aware… I do not know of anything that was done.”
Smith: “…We are not saying that you were at the meeting. You were being accused of being in the vehicle when Mr. Middleton went to meet with Mr. Mark Tench, Mr. Patrick Tillett and Mr. Eric Chang, and they knew it was you because of the connection between the person knowing your brother and knowing you. So were you there?”
Cassanova: “No, ma’am.”
Smith: “You were never in any setting; you were never at anytime, anywhere near Mr. Middleton when he met with persons of that sort?”
Cassanova: “No, ma’am.”
Smith: “So then I’m confused with regard to your answer …”
Salazar: “Why would you say you might have been, if you know for certain that you were not in the vehicle?”
Cassanova: “Because sometimes, people like Mr. Middleton would ask me or anybody would ask me for a ride, and then I would just bring down somebody… but as far as I am aware, I have never been at Calypso with anybody…”
Smith: “Did you bring down Mr. Middleton on that day?”
Cassanova: “I don’t know which day, Ma’am. I don’t know which day the meeting occurred.”
Smith: “Have you ever brought Mr. Middleton to Belize City to attend any meeting?”
Cassanova: “No, ma’am.”
Smith: “Have you ever brought him to Belize City any at all?”
Cassanova: “Sometimes I would bring down Mr. Middleton if he would ask me for a ride, because I work in Orange Walk but I live in Belize City.”
Smith: “Is it possible, then, that you could have brought him down on that day and you dropped him off there, and you weren’t aware why, but you dropped him off there?”
Cassanova: “Yes, ma’am.”
According to Salazar, Cassanova was Middleton’s connection to the Immigration Department, as he had been identified through her.
Cassanova maintained, however, that she did not know of any business Middleton had conducted. She told the committee that as an Immigration officer for twenty-five years, she would never condone any illegal activities.