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#524516 - 07/12/17 05:08 AM Manuel Heredia Jr. ready for Senate inquiry  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 57,380
Marty Offline
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Tourism Minister Manuel Heredia Junior and his colleague Rene Montero appear on Wednesday before the Senate Special Select Committee on Immigration. The Belize Rural South area representative is expected to be questioned about his role as a recommender for a particular family on Ambergris Caye, the Harmouch family. It is also known that he acted as a courier for the department, bringing packages of immigration documents and completed applications to the island even as an Opposition area representative. While Heredia complained to a reporter that the committee’s questioning is bordering on the political, he maintains that he has done nothing wrong.

Manuel Heredia Jr., Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation

“Unfortunately, yesterday evening I received the summons to appear Wednesday over there. Honestly I believe that this has turned to be something more political than the reality, because as far as I am concerned, the Auditor General had already said that what had appeared about myself, Minister Montero and a few others, that after her findings it became clear that there was nothing wrong as to what we were doing. Our job was to recommend; if there is anything faulty in the application it is the job of the personnel of the Immigration to [check]. So hopefully this will give me a chance to be able to [show] the public, to convey the image that I have had that I always had from when I was a child until now, that I still maintain that same image, and all that I have done then, now and in the future is to serve the people of my constituency and the entire country of Belize.

It is not only the Harmouch family that I have assisted in making sure that recommending or probably checking to see the status of their application; I have done it for hundreds of Central Americans from every part of Central America – expats that are living over here and they qualify, they asked me for recommendations and I will do it. And then the one that I believe they were speaking about with visas – in reality, taking an open visa like that to an applicant, if I did one or two that did not really apply – but to check out one or two. But these ones, from Opposition days when I was in Opposition, the now-Opposition Government used to allow me to bring packages from Belmopan, sealed packages, delivered to Immigration over here; whatever Immigration San Pedro had, I would take it either on a Monday or Tuesday when I go.”


“But Minister, why would such – they turned you into a general courier; didn’t they have other people, specifically from the Immigration Department, who could have done that?”

Manuel Heredia Jr.

“Not really; these people go once a month, because remember they’re based over here – if you want to travel and it’s not official, you have to pay out of your pocket.”

Heredia also noted that he was a last resort; the Department also used Tropic Air at times to fly packages to the island. He also complained that since the practice was stopped, service to the island has slowed down.

Channel 5

#524530 - 07/13/17 04:12 AM Re: Manuel Heredia Jr. ready for Senate inquiry [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 57,380
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline

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.

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.

#524548 - 07/14/17 06:12 AM Re: Manuel Heredia Jr. ready for Senate inquiry [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 57,380
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline

Heredia and The Harmouche’s

Last night's news was all about UDP Ministers Rene Montero and Manuel Heredia Jr. testifying before the Senate Select Committee.

Montero's testimony was significantly shorter than Heredia's because the Tourism Minister had to answer all those Harmouche's, who he helped to become Belizean citizens back in early 2012.

The Auditor General was concerned with Heredia's interest in the Harmouche Clan, even questioning if there was a conflict of interest between him and Khodr (Coder) Harmouche, the Honorary Consul of Belize in Lebanon.

As we showed you, Heredia claims that there are close to 100 Harmouches living in San Pedro, and so the Senate wanted to know if he was eager to help them get nationality because he was in election mode. Here's that exchange between Heredia and the Senators on the Commitee:

Michel Chebat- PUP Senator
"Would it be a coincidence, sir, that within days of your intervention, on behalf of Samir Harmouche and Ahmad Harmouche, Mr. Perdomo signed off on their nationality certificate?"

Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr. - Minister UDP Minister
"Not so sir, I will never ask any one of my colleagues to go ahead and do something that hasn't fulfilled the time or hasn't been vetted the right way or whatever."

Michel Chebat- PUP Senator
"So it would be a surprise to you that they got it a few days after your intervention?"

Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr. - Minister UDP Minister
"If they get for over there then that is for the minister or the persons or who are vetting to see that it was right or if anything is wrong."

Michel Chebat- PUP Senator
"What benefit is there to you for this service?"

Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr.
"Personal benefit? No personal benefit from anyone; and I think I said it, why I have been very successful is because I provide services free of cost."

Michel Chebat
"Would it be any coincidence or surprise to you that within a day or two after Samir and Ahmad got their nationality they went to register as voters in your constituency?"

Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr.
"Well, like I said, most of the people in the island, as soon as they get their - Central Americans, Canadians, Americans- as soon as they get it, two things that they do: get their ID and then get their passport."

Michel Chebat
"So this was the benefit in providing this service?"

Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr.
"I wouldn't say that. Indeed, if they got it then it was a benefit for them because uhm…but if it didn't qualify well then they shouldn't have gotten."

Michel Chebat
"No, but that's not my question."

Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr.
"But then don't blame Minister Heredia for getting a nationality if there were irregularities. Blame the persons that were in charge."

Michel Chebat
"No, that's not my question minister. You see, there is a clear pattern established with these Harmouches. You intervened on their behalf, within a few days of your intervention they got their nationality certificate. And within a few days of getting their nationality certificate, they registered in your division, as voters in your division. And so, there was a benefit to you personally."

Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr.
"Well, if you want to call it so, call it so but I don't regard it as such. I think it is their duty, their rightful duty if they want to get register within hours of getting their nationality."

Michel Chebat
"This was not their way of repaying you of your service?"

Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr.
"I don't regard, I will never and I think, probably you might not know me but your brother know me very well what type of person I am."

Hon. Heredia Courier Service?

The Senators also wanted to know about the immigration courier services Heredia claimed to have been providing since 1994.

As viewers will remember, the Auditor General flagged the practice when she noted that he received 52 visa stickers back on September 7, 2012. Those stickers were for the Immigration Officer in charge of the San Pedro office.

The Auditor General says that it was improper for him to do so, but yesterday, he explained that he started doing this for San Pedro because its isolation from the mainland causes undue delays:

Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr.- Area Rep, Belize Rural South
"From 1994, when I was mayor of the island, right, the previous administration was in power, they had asked me if I can provide services because usually, I will come at least once a week to tend to the businesses of my constituency in different departments. So being myself, that I usually come Mondays, particularly, for the business of the constituency, immigration in San Pedro with the consent of the Minister responsible had asked me if I can take and bring sealed envelopes from San Pedro to Belmopan and from Belmopan to San Pedro. And that is what I had been doing from 1994 until Minister Hulse became the minister, and there was a lot of scandals over there, that he asked him that I can no longer continue to do the services but it was just more a service to the constituencies because San Pedro is isolated and the officers in charge will usually only come sometimes once a month and then those applications are delayed in San Pedro, it takes three weeks to a month before it arrives in Belmopan and then it takes another two to three months before it can go back to the island. That is why they had asked me if I can provide that but there was nothing that was individually it was a sealed in a manila envelope addressed to the officer in charge of San Pedro and addressed to the officer in charge of Belmopan. I believe that my job as the area representative, at the time as the Mayor, is to provide services to my constituency, the best service possible to my constituency and that is exactly what I tried to do, it is not something that I on my own went over there 'give me this' or the demand, it was something that I was asked to do. If it was illegal then I was not aware of that but it was just a service that I was providing."

Aldo Salazar- Chairman, Senate Select Committee
"Were you aware of what was in the envelope?"

Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr.
"Definitely not, because I will never open the envelope to see if it was visas or if it was passport or no matter what. My job was just to deliver, providing that service but I will never know what is in there. So when I saw that so many visas were taken by Minister Heredia, something is wrong here because I never knew what was inside of the envelope."

Channel 7

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