At Senate, Manuel Heredia Tells of Adventures in Couriering for Immigration

Two more Ministers of Government appeared today before the Senate Special Select Committee on Immigration.  From opposite ends of the country, Tourism Minister Manuel Heredia Junior and Works Minister Rene Montero both make appearances in the Auditor General’s Special Report on Immigration and Nationality 2011-2013.  They were found to have made multiple recommendations for persons to receive visas, passports and nationality for which they did not qualify.  In Heredia Junior’s case, the Auditor General also cast suspicion on why, since 1994, Heredia as Mayor of San Pedro Town, later area representative for Belize Rural South, and ultimately a minister, was asked to be a glorified courier for the department.  While on other business, he moved packages back and forth between Ambergris Caye and Belmopan. Heredia Junior says he never succumbed to the temptation of opening or asking about the packages, and was blindsided by the revelations in the report about them.

Manuel Heredia Jr., Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation

“But there is nothing that individually – it was a sealed manila envelope, addressed to the officer in charge in San Pedro and addressed to the officer in charge in Belmopan. And I believe that my job as the area representative, at the time as Mayor, is to provide services to my constituency – the best service if possible to the constituency, and that is what exactly what I tried to do with it – it was not something that I, on my own went over there ‘Give me this’ and demanded – it was something that I was asked to do. If it is illegal, then I wasn’t aware of that, but I believe it was just a service that I was providing.”

Aldo Salazar, Chair, Senate Special Select Committee

“Were you aware [of] what was in the envelope?”

Manuel Heredia, Jr.

“Definitely not, because I will never open the envelope to see what is in – if it was visas, if it was passports, no matter what; my job was just to deliver, providing that service, but I would never know what was in [there]. So when I saw that so many visas were taken by Minister Heredia, I said ‘Something is wrong over here;’ because I will never what is inside of the envelope. If someone can provide – and I believe that my credibility up to now and ever since has at no time been questioned – based on that, I believe that both administrations had confidence that nothing will happen, and from that time until now I don’t believe that there is any time that they said something is missing, or that the person that was supposed to receive something didn’t received it, at no time can I remember anything of the sort happening.”

Heredia Junior says he was not paid for his work and that the practice was stopped by current Minister of Immigration and Nationality Senator Godwin Hulse, in the aftermath of the Immigration scandal. The area rep also noted in complaint that the efficiency of service to the island has dropped since the removal of the courier service.

Channel 5


Manuel Heredia and The Harmouche Clan

So, while Montero doesn't know any of the Harmouches, his ministerial colleague, Manuel Heredia Jr., knows the entire clan of them who live on San Pedro.

He claims that there over 100 of them who live on the island. In the Auditor General's report, she has 24 pages dedicated to the many Harmouches who applied for nationality with many irregularities in their file, or the manner in which they were handled.

And, Belize Rural South's Manuel Heredia Jr., is right there in the audit report because the Audit team is concerned about intervention he made to assist them to get Nationality. Some of them, from the Audit Team's perspective, did not qualify. In other instances, certain procedures were not followed when granting these applicants their nationality.

So, here are the pointed questions that they had for Heredia this morning:

Hon. Aldo Salazar - Chairman, Senate Select Committee
“There is a particular issue here with the surname Harmouche which I’m sure you’re familiar with in your constituency. Samir Harmouche, are you familiar with that person?”

Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr. - UDP Minister
“the first names may not be that familiar but the last name Harmouche yes. The family is almost 100 or over 100 Harmouche that lives on the island.”

Hon. Aldo Salazar
“But you are not familiar with particularly Samir Harmouche?”

Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr.
“For the first names even the ones I appoint regularly, the first names, it's difficult to remember those ones but the last name yes.”

Hon. Aldo Salazar
“the auditor general said that you requested the file for Samir Harmouche some time after 9th December 2011. Then she is saying by the 10th January 2012 nationality certificate in respect to Samir Harmouche was entered in the numbers book. Nationality certificate indicated was signed by Minister Carlos Perdomo on the 12th of January 2012.”

Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr.
“If there are irregularities in the application, that is not my job to check, is the job of the officers in charge to check. Something was wrong then they should have not qualified this person, have never instructed on the will not ever instruct anyone to say look he does not qualify, we’ll go ahead and grant; I will never do with that. ”

Hon. Mark Lizarraga - Business Senator
“There is a pattern here in the case of the Harmouches. At anytime did you ask Ms. Gertrude Armstrong to proceed with a file even though it was not complete minister?”

Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr.
“Senator I think I was very clear in saying, I have never ask anyone to do anything illegal, I will never.”

Hon. Mark Lizarraga
“Do you know an A-H-M-A-D, Ahmad Harmouche?”

Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr.
“Yes I know Ahmad.”

Hon. Mark Lizarraga
“How many Ahmads do you know because they are several of them with the same…”

Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr.
“Those ones would be difficult because almost every single one of them have either in the front of in the middle so that one would be difficult and like I said I am more acquainted with their Belize name than with their country’s name.”

Hon. Mark Lizarraga
“The auditor General again on the 8th of December 2011, there was another letter from Khador, is that how you pronounce it?”

Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr.
“Khoder.”

Hon. Mark Lizarraga
“Khoder, there was another letter from Khoder requesting your assistance again with one Ahmad Harmouche and the other Ahmads. And she states that between the 8th of December 2011 and the 11th of January 2012, Minister Heredia requested the nationality file of Ahmad Harmouche this was recorded as seen recorded by Mr. Gordon Wade officer commanding the nationality section. Earlier I thought I heard you say that you never requested nationality files.”

Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr.
“You are right and I will stick to that, I have never requested a file. I have requested information concerning the bna number with a copy of the receipt which is given to me, I will go and check what is the status of the file but I will never ask anyone to pull a file on my behalf.”

Hon. Mark Lizarraga
“In every instance where documents state officer has placed in the minute sheet that you requested a file, you’re denying that? ”

Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr.
“Yes that I requested file yes, I have never requested a file, I have just requested information about the file.”

Hon. Mark Lizarraga
“You’ve never been in a possession to file and taken it to Mr. Perdomo any other minister for approval?”

Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr.
“I would never do that.”

Hon. Mark Lizarraga
“Ammar Harmouche, you’re familiar with that name?”

Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr.
“Several Ahmads as we mentioned.”

Hon. Mark Lizarraga
“No this is Ammar, A-M-M-A-R, Ammar Harmouche, where she’s saying he did not meet the five year requirement. I was wondering again, she states that you requested the file and this file request was minuted by the same Gertrude Armstrong again saying you requested the file. Even though the person did not meet the five years so there is a series of cases like this minister where we see the same people, the same players, the same last names. Heredia, Armstrong, Harmouche, Heredia Armstrong, Harmouche and the auditor general has speaked out quite a bit from paragraph 102 to paragraph 116; those same names keep coming up.” 

Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr.
“And you will find out that if you go to the number of other files I recommended, you will find out you will find Heredia regularly also but I don’t see anything wrong because I am singled out with this particular person, it was something common between myself and the Harmouche and Ms. Armstrong,”

Hon. Mark Lizarraga
“That the officer in command of the nationality section Mr. Gordon Wade did not recommend this applicant Harmouche for nationality but the auditor general is saying that on the 11th of January the recommendation was made again by this Gertrude Armstrong who was just a clerk in the nationality section and he was the one that recommended the application for nationality to the director.”

Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr.
“The way I’m understanding it now you are pretending to tell me that Ms. Armstrong and myself have something in common. I knew Ms. Armstrong but I will never influence or can never influence Ms. Armstrong. Ms. Armstrong for some reason sent that file or sent it for approval, question Ms. Armstrong, don’t question me.”

Channel 7



Area Representative of Belize Rural South (San Pedro & Caye Caulker) Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr. in questioning at a Special Senate Select Committee Hearing.