More revelations from Senate Select Committee hearing

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Updated: January 26, 2017

Yesterday the former Director of Immigration Ruth Meighan appeared before the Senate Special Select Committee to answer tough questions. During the session, Senators Aldo Salazar and Eamon Courtenay drilled Meighan about the Jin Chen Han application. According to the Auditor General, Jin Chen Han received a visa one month before receiving a nationality. In her notation, the Auditor General stated that the approval was based on a letter sent by Minister Erwin Contreras.

Senator Aldo Salazar

Do you recall making such annotations in relation to applications for visa and if so what does that mean that it’s approved based on the letter.

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

“I don’t recall that specific application.

Senator Aldo Salazar

“This is an application where the person was touted as someone coming to Belize to invest along with another individual investor who was already in Belize but it turns out that this person had already come to Belize previously, well it turns out that the records in his passport showed that he was here from 2007 as a cook and then in 2012 he was supposed to come and he had a letter which said that he was an investor and then shortly thereafter on 30th November, 2012 he was given Belizean nationality; but a review of the file by the Auditor General displays that he had given one passport number for visa and then in relation to the nationality he had submitted a copy of different passport with a different number and by looking at that and comparing it wasn’t adding up at all and in fact the second passport which the Auditor General chooses to call bogus but the second passport which may have been a fraudulent document was also used the same picture, the same number was also used for another application.”

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

“I don’t remember the circumstances around this specific case.

Senator Eamon Courtenay

“What possible circumstance could there be where we are issuing approval based on a letter from Minister.

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

“If it is a letter that said that the person is an investor and coming in and that would also be taken into consideration for, while I was there for the issuance of a visa, but the basic recommender letter that you all are making reference to those were not the only things to be used to determine whether the visa was approved but if the letter had said that the person is an investor coming from the ministry then that would have been the reason why the notation is there because on the other applications that we get recommender there might not have been any notation to say that it was from a minister.

Senator Eamon Courtenay

“If you’re looking at 12.3 I think that is what you are referring to.”

Also in her report, the Auditor General speaks of letter sent by former Minister Santiago Castillo recommending the approval of a visa for Jin Chen.

Senator Eamon Courtenay

“Dear Ms. Meighan, that’s you, this letter serves to introduce Xin Chen, one of my supporters and a constituent. Xin Chen applied for her nationality, I support her application.” That doesn’t surprise you when Xin Chen is a man?

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

“I don’t get to see Xin Chen.

Senator Eamon Courtenay

“There is no document on the file, this is now nationality, that would show you that the picture.”

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

“There is a photocopy of that picture that is given at the time the application file comes to my desk.

Senator Eamon Courtenay

“Yes so you would know.”

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

“I don’t know if I could say by looking at the picture whether it is a male or female and I probably wasn’t looking to see if it is a male or a female person at the time I’m dealing with the application.

Senator Eamon Courtenay

“So you are just granting this right like that.

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

“No based on the information that is presented but then on each application.

Senator Eamon Courtenay

“It does not matter to you director, that a minister is writing to you telling you that he knows this person and referring to this person as a woman when in fact it is a man.”

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

“Like I said the letter is on the file along with the other information, I wouldn’t be looking in detail at the Minister’s letter to determine whether or not the person would get the application. What I would be looking at are the other information that is provided to say that the person has been here for the specified period according to the criteria that we have set out so the male or female part of it on the Minister’s letter, I wouldn’t have paid any attention to that.”

Senator Eamon Courtenay

“Right, but the minister is telling you that the person, it says “one of my supporters and a constituent and I support her application.” so it is not a question of a picture, this Minister is telling you that he knows this woman and you are reviewing an application for a man. The point we are trying to find out from you, because we are concerned about the integrity of our nationality system and our passport. The question I am trying to get from you as the person who is approving it matters not to you that on the very file you are looking at a minister is saying “I know this woman who is applying. I support this woman’s application.” and you are approving an application for a man?

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

“I am saying to you that that may have been a typographical error but I am also saying to you that at the time the application came to me, the file itself would have indicated whether this person was a male or a female, and based on that information that the officer presented me, that is what I would make the recommendation on.”

The next hearing is scheduled for next week Wednesday.