Compol questioned on nationality screening

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Updated: July 19, 2017

When senior immigration officer Ady Pecheco testified before the Senate Select Committee, she said the established procedures did not require employees to verify documents as part of the application process. Pacheco told the committee that the security clearance was removed for all persons applying for Belizean nationality. This, according to Pacheco, was a decision handed down from Cabinet. The matter was brought up by committee members when questioning Commissioner of Police, Allen Whylie.

Senator Mark Lizarraga
“Did you know that checks needed to be done?”

Allen Whylie – Commissioner of Police
“Well I know that checks were being done with the police even when I was in the police, before I became CEO but I am not aware that any checks were discontinued. I do know I can recall that there was a cabinet approval in terms of persons holding valid US visas that there would be no need for the security check but it was valid US visas. I think at that time it was felt that the screening process that the Americans had prior to granting visas would be sufficient that persons who had valid US visas would not necessarily require the background screening that is my recollection.”

Senator Mark Lizarraga
“Where I want to go with this commissioner is that we’ve agreed that it was important to screen certain nationals, you’ve told me that a decision was made by cabinet to rely on or to accept the prior clearances that were done when those persons would have received visas from the US you were relying on that but in fact what we’ve seen is that in many cases highlighted in these reports persons did not in fact go through the security clearances. You described earlier that the security clearance could take quite a number of weeks, months even a year you said and in some instances we see where security clearances were…..

Allen Whylie – Commissioner of Police
“Let me just clarify in terms of when I was speaking of the security clearance there I was thinking and speaking about persons who had applied for Belizean Nationality because that took that amount of time. I can’t say in terms of for visas how long that took because I wasn’t involved in that process.”

Senator Mark Lizarraga
“Okay there is clearance for visa and clearance for nationality would take place. Okay.”

According to Senior Superintendent of Police, Marco Vidal, the screening is now being done for permanent residency applications only.

Reporter
“A big sticking point is was this process, this screening discontinued and at whose order was it discontinued. Are you aware when you were in charge of special branch if persons were being screened for nationality?”

Sr. Supt. Marco Vidal – OC, EDS
“That process changed a very long time ago. At one point special branch was responsible for doing the vetting for nationalities. Currently what special branch is doing is only for permanent residency. So we are not involved in the nationality aspect of vetting.

Reporter
“Okay but you are saying that every person who ends up with a Belizean passport as far as you know during your term there was screened had a background screening?”

Sr. Supt. Marco Vidal – OC, EDS
“In terms of nationality when I returned to special branch as the head we were no longer doing vetting’s for nationality. I can’t speak prior to my arrival there.”

Reporter
“Okay but you have spent a large part of your career in special branch so there was a change, once upon a time there was screening for nationality.”

Sr. Supt. Marco Vidal – OC, EDS
“Right there was.”

Reporter
“Okay now speaking in very general terms as someone who is steeped in the tradition of intelligence and who has spent many years in the special branch is it a desirable practice to have all persons who end up with a nationality certificate to have all of them have a background screening before they get that certificate?”

Sr. Supt. Marco Vidal – OC, EDS
“Well certainly, but you must understand that immigration does that kind of vetting, before it was that special branch would do the vetting, relevant checks even international checks so I don’t know what the process at immigration follows but what we used to follow I suppose was more thorough.”