BELMOPAN, Cayo District, Wed. June 28, 2017–An in-depth analysis of the Auditor General’s audit of the Immigration Department would lead one to think that the Harmouch family in San Pedro has benefited from its relationships with political figures in both the ruling United Democratic Party and the opposition People’s United Party.
For example, the audit revealed that in 2012, Abdel Harmouch became a Belizean national even though he had not satisfied the requirements to do so.
Tourism Minister Manuel Heredia had provided a reference for him to the Immigration Department for the issuance of his nationality certificate.
The Officer in Charge of the Nationality Section at the Immigration Department, Gordon Wade, however, was of the view that he did not qualify for nationality and so did not recommend him.
Strangely, although Wade had not approved it, a clerk in the office he oversaw, Gertrude Armstrong, opposed him and went on to recommend Harmouch to the Director of the Immigration Department.
Thereafter, former Minister of State in the Immigration Department, Elvin Penner, issued his approval and Harmouch was granted a nationality certificate which the Auditor General revealed he did not qualify for.
Ady Pacheco, who had worked in that section at the time of this incident and interviewed Harmouch, was today questioned by the Senate Select Committee.
When PUP Senator Eamon Courtenay asked if it was normal for the clerk, Gertrude Armstrong, to make recommendations for nationality certificates, Pacheco responded, “If the person didn’t qualify, Mr. [Gordon] Wade was rightful in saying he could not recommend. As for Ms. Gertrude’s recommending, I can’t really answer.”
When asked by UDP Senator Aldo Salazar why Wade did not recommend Harmouch for his nationality, Pacheco responded, “I can’t answer that….”
Pacheco, a 20-year veteran of the Immigration Department, was also involved in another matter in which another Harmouch was issued his nationality certificate even though he, too, did not meet the requirements.
The Auditor General’s audit revealed that Hussein Harmouch did not qualify because a background check by Special Branch police revealed that he had been convicted on October 23, 2002 for operating a “Casa de Cambio” without a license.
On April 4, 2005, former Solicitor General, Gian Ghandi, wrote on the application that based on adverse reports from the Special Branch and the Attorney General’s Ministry, Harmouch’s application for nationality was refused.
The then Cabinet Secretary had also refused his application (apparently, the process at that time was different from the process now used).
The Auditor General revealed that former Immigration Director Jose Carmen Zetina, who was a former Commissioner of Police, was instructed to send Harmouch’s file to then Finance and Home Affairs Minister Ralph Fonseca.
Pacheco had written Minister Fo nseca at the time explaining reasons for the refusal to issue the nationality certificate to Harmouch.
Nevertheless, on July 11, 2005, Fonseca wrote Director Zetina approving Harmouch’s application.
It is not yet known if Ralph Fonseca will be called to testify in front of the Senate Select Committee.