Senior Immigration officer speaks on procedures not followed in Wong Hong Kim case

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Updated: February 2, 2017

Yesterday, Senior Immigration Officer, Gordon Wade, who was the Head of the Nationality Department, was questioned by the Senate Special Select Committee. In her report, the Auditor General spoke of an egregious breach in the system that led unqualified persons to obtain Belizean nationality. This was the case with Wong Hong Kim. Kim’s nationality application was being fast tracked by former government Minister Elvin Penner who would regularly visit the Nationality Department. In fact, even though Wade told Penner that the Wong Hong Kim application was incomplete, he still made sure that the application was processed.

Senator Aldo Salazar

“You had specific interaction with then Minister Penner in relation to this file, did he bring it directly to you.

Gordon Wade – Senior Immigration Officer

“No sir.”

Senator Aldo Salazar

“How did the file was brought into the office by him, it was submitted at the front desk at the acceptance clerk.”

Senator Aldo Salazar

“That is your understanding or were you with him?

Gordon Wade – Senior Immigration Officer

“ No, I was not with him.”

Senator Aldo Salazar

“So it was submitted at the acceptance clerk, then how did it get to you? I want to know how it is that you ended up getting involved with this file.”

Gordon Wade – Senior Immigration Officer

“As I mentioned I am the final vetter, so all files come to me.”

Senator Aldo Salazar

“So what happened. I want to know what happened.”

Gordon Wade – Senior Immigration Officer

“What came to me, the file?”

Senator Aldo Salazar

“The file.”

Gordon Wade – Senior Immigration Officer

“That is what I’m saying as the final vetter in the section hall the file comes to me.  In this particular case you are talking about the Minister came to inquire whether the file was ready or not for which I responded to him that we were awaiting the additional documents he promised.

Senator Aldo Salazar

“Did you recall what was incomplete?”

Gordon Wade – Senior Immigration Officer

“If I am not mistaken I think it was the complete copy of the passport and I think a police record, they had applied but hadn’t actually gotten the actual police record yet or something to that effect. I haven’t seen that file for the last four or five years I couldn’t remember specifically what was missing at that time.

Senator Aldo Salazar

“But it was incomplete.”

Gordon Wade – Senior Immigration Officer

“It was incomplete.”

Senator Aldo Salazar

“And you told him that it could not be processed.”

Gordon Wade – Senior Immigration Officer

“Well I told him that I could not process the file until all the other documents were presented which would have made the file complete.”

Senator Aldo Salazar

“And that is when he told you…

Gordon Wade – Senior Immigration Officer

“That was when he told me that he was going to take it up to the next level which was the director.”

Senator Ashley Rocke

“Was there any way you benefitted from this file?

Gordon Wade – Senior Immigration Officer

“I would like to ask specifically what you mean by benefit from that file.”

Senator Ashley Rocke

“Well we learned that this file there were people who apparently benefitted from this file because first of all the file was illegal, the man was in jail, there was no way he could have been in Belize so that there had to be some payment, some benefit that came from this file for it to have been processed the way it was processed. So I’m asking, you are under oath here today, was there any way you benefitted from this file?”

Gordon Wade – Senior Immigration Officer

“No sir.”

The Wong Hong Kim application was not the only one of its kind. The Auditor General, through her report, revealed that there were several other instances that nationality had been issued, even though the requirements were not met. One of those instances is in the case of Jin Chen Han.

Senator Aldo Salazar

“Jin Chen Han clearly wasn’t here from 2007 so clearly the stamp was fake, the passport was fake,

Gordon Wade – Senior Immigration Officer

‘Was that established ?”

Senator Aldo Salazar

“Well it could either be one of two things, either one of the two passports could be real, I don’t think the person would have two Chinese passports so I don’t really think that that has to be established by any official authority I think the facts are there.

Gordon Wade – Senior Immigration Officer

“Specifically like that and the suggestions that you made….”

Senator Aldo Salazar

“It’s not a suggestion it was in the report.

Gordon Wade – Senior Immigration Officer

“No. No. The suggestion you made that if the department was networked and we had a closer working relationship with the VISA, passport and nationality section those things could have been avoided. Because like I mentioned when a file reaches my desk, this file has been accepted it has been prepared, the applicant has been interviewed it has been pre-vetted before it comes to me so when it comes to me having been through all those processes it’s not usual for me to start the process all over again and start verifying everything that is in there so that is where I would see breakdown where that can be strengthened.”

Senator Carla Barnett

“From an administrative point of view what kind of requirement’s did you have to report to your director or CEO or Minister on the nationality process what was happening in that section.  Was there a regular reporting process where you would be producing reports that somebody could come and look at later and you know, do an internal audit for example?”

Gordon Wade – Senior Immigration Officer

“During my time in Belmopan at that section we usually had monthly meetings, senior management meetings with the director and the different heads of sections at Belmopan where these reports….

 

Senator Carla Barnett

“What kind of reports would you have produced for that meeting for example?”

Gordon Wade – Senior Immigration Officer

“Amount of applications processed, pending, proposed swearing in dates and those kinds of information from my specific section, renunciation.  We also did work for embassies abroad for Belizeans living abroad that required replacements of certain documents and so on so it would be a basic report of what we had achieved during the period.”

Senator Aldo Salazar

“Before we go any further did you have any role in relation to visas?

Gordon Wade – Senior Immigration Officer

“No sir.”

Senator Aldo Salazar

“For the period in question?”

Gordon Wade – Senior Immigration Officer

“No sir. At the immigration department there are three sections, the services, the passports, and the nationality.”

Penner is expected to be called in before the Committee at some point of the inquiry.