The Senate Report surround several instances of irregularities inside the Immigration and Nationality Department. DPP Vidal noted to Love News that the reports coming out of the Auditor General’s Report are nothing new since she arrived in Belize. She added that the system failed all around as a Senate inquiry was not necessarily needed for an investigation to be launched. That, however would have required the will from the former Police Commissioner, Allan Wylie.
Cheryl Lynn Vidal, Director of Public Prosecutions: “That takes us obviously to the issue as to whether or not these matters should not have been attended to a very long time ago. There are issues here that arose that clearly should have been reported by the Director of Immigration at that time to the police department. The Auditor General’s report proceeded the inquiry by the Senate. That Auditor General’s report could have been used as the basis for an investigation years ago but of course that was a different time, that was a time when a commissioner would have to be taken to court and ordered to investigate matters, thankful that’s not the time now but I’m just making the point to say that there has been a lot of time that has been lost, time that could have been used to investigate and we may have been much further along. We didn’t have to wait on a report from the Senate. After the Auditor General’s report revealed certain things those matters could have been investigated by the police department but thankfully we have a commissioner now who is very aware of his role, very aware of his function and is very committed to carrying out his role. I first came to Belize a little over twenty years ago and when I first came to Belize I was hearing about things like this happening at immigration. In I believe 2003 I was working at the Attorney General’s Ministry and I was put as the legal advisor to an inquiry into the Immigration Department that was being led by the Ombudsman Mr.Rodriguez at that time that’s a very very long time ago and that inquiry unearthed some of these very same things and when in 2020 I read this report I was astounded and of course I was not able to follow the sittings, I wasn’t able to follow the entire hearing I fortunately don’t have the time to devote to that kind of thing I’m always busy with the work on my desk but I would have of course have read in the news things that were being said, things that were being revealed and then having read through the report I was astounded it’s the same things that are happening perhaps just on a wider scale or a more sophisticated scale but it just seems to me there’s been no real desire to properly deal with these matters and while I see that Ms.Marin and Ms.Locke were commended in the report for trying to put systems in place to address some of the deficiencies and make it I suppose less likely for people to continue with this kind of conduct I believe it still happens to today. I believe that it is still happening, that a lot of what is in this report is still happening.”
DPP Vidal went on to note that from the presentation of the Auditor General’s Report back in 2013 the Police or higher ups in the Ministry of Immigration could have done a proper investigation.
Cheryl Lynn Vidal, Director of Public Prosecutions: “My position is informed by this, as I said earlier we didn’t need this report to spark anything. There was the Auditor General’s report -if there is no complaint made by immigration the police department is not going to know what is happening there. These are not offences that would just come to the attention of the police in the ordinary course of things so there would have required some report from immigration to the police in relation to what is transpiring there, there was none that’s a given but then there was the Auditor General’s report and that report highlighted certain irregularities, that report provided the basis for the thinking that things are happening there that may amount to criminal offences that need to be investigated and so at that time when that report was released there should have been an investigation that was commenced. So that even without anything being done by any special select committee things should have started then. So only because of that I will say that the committee obviously served a purpose but in terms of a criminal prosecution it is not that it was necessary, it was not a necessary step towards a criminal prosecution, it did not have to be. It has just turned out that the high command at that time was not interested in investigating. Now that there has been a report, there is a change in the high command, there’s a totally different view as to how things must progress now this report is going to be that spark to get it going. So it has served a purpose in that sense but if it was a necessary step in relation to a criminal prosecution it didn’t have to be.”
Love News will keep following this story and bring you the developments including the formation of the investigative team.