Thursday, 09 March 2017
UDP insider Patrick Tillett has gone before the Senate Select Committee to admit under oath that he took money to try to get Visas approved for Chinese Nationals. More incredible than that is that he told the Senate Committee that 6 of the 8 stolen visas from the Immigration Department ended up in passports for his “clients”. Rather than report that he was jilted out of money by an immigration agent, he says he decided to take a $30,000 financial hit to sweep it under the rug.
Tillett claims that he performed these Visa services only twice, and the second time he was jilted by a “Mr. Middleton.” He testified that he was approached by persons acting on behalf of 6 Chinese nationals who wanted to come to Belize. He charged those persons $6,000 each, and in those fees, $2,000 was to go towards the fees for the Government of Belize, $3,000 was paid to immigration agent “Mr. Middleton,” and $1,000 was his fee. He said that he checked to make sure that the applications had all the required documentation before handing over the application package to the “Mr. Middleton.”
From the start of his testimony, the Senate had great difficulty believing him because they could not understand why Tillett chose to pay the immigration agent such a high fee. Senate Chairman Aldo Salazar, after hearing him describe the transaction, said, “There was no need for Mr. Middleton. You were giving away $3,000 because you only paid him to take the documents to Belmopan, which is where you live. You could have taken 15 minutes to take it to Immigration yourself.”
That’s when Tillett admitted that he did not want to be the face of the operation. When he was asked why, he said, “If you look at the history of Immigration for the past 20 year, I don’t think anybody wants to be seen running in and out of immigration every day. And so, I didn’t want to be involved. I paid somebody to do that part.”
Both Senator Courtenay and Senator Salazar kept pressing him to explain the role of immigration agent “Mr. Middleton,” and in the course of the conversation, Salazar told him, “I’m not saying I’ve drawn this, but the most attractive inference is that that sum of money was paid because the intention was well, you do what you have to do to get these visas, and that’s why it costs $3,000.”
Tillett claimed that when he realized that there was a problem with the Visas he took them to Immigration Officer George Reynolds who told him that they were authentic, but they needed the stamp and signature of the officer who issued the visas. Tillett says that he gave them back to “Mr. Middleton” to get the stamp and signature, but realized that it wasn’t an embossed seal. What “Mr. Middleton” returned with a second time were visas with a cashier’s stamp. He said that’s when he realized that fraud had been committed, and scrapped the deal.
According to Tillett, he had already paid “Mr. Middleton” the $30,000, which included the immigration agent’s cut, and the fees for all 6 visas that was to be paid to the Immigration Department. He never made any report to the police or to the Immigration Department, or any authority that such a crime had been committed against him and against the Government.
Senator Courtenay explained to him that his willingness to take the financial hit, plus the $3,000 fee that “Mr. Middleton” got lends credibility to the suspicion that he knew that he was running shady immigration business.
Tillett said that he didn’t agree and that it was not his intention that visas be stolen or illegally issued. As regards the entire testimony of the UDP insider, Senator Elena Smith put it succinctly, stating that she was reminded of that Belizean saying, “Dah fool dih talk, but dah no fool dih listen.”