Minister Samuels US visa revoked

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 13, No. 6            February 20, 2003

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Belize's Minister of Transport, Public Utilities and Communication, Maxwell Samuels, was recently requested to surrender his passport to US authorities. Maxwell, a holder of an A-1 visa usually reserved for high-ranking foreign officials was asked by the U.S. Embassy in Belize to present his passport to embassy personnel in order for his visa to be revoked. The order came from the U.S. State Department in consultation with the local U.S. Embassy. Samuels was the Minister of Immigration and Home Affairs during the passport scandal that rocked Belize last year.

    According to US Embassy spokesperson Edgar Embrey, the US government concerns were in regard to immigration issues. He said this move was under consideration for months and has nothing to do with the upcoming elections. He further stated that although the Belize Economic Citizenship Program supposedly ended in January of 2002, passports were issued up until July of 2002. He acknowledged that in several cases people had their birth dates and names changed allowing them to bypass U.S. government's security systems which could create a possible route for terrorists to enter the United States through Belize.

   No government officials have been arrested or charged with the illegal selling of passports rumored to be around 1,200 although a new system had been implemented months ago for persons applying for Belizean nationality. A press release issued via phone last week by the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Kirk Anderson (who is coincidentally out of the country until after the elections) stated "The case files provided to this office by the police department disclose irregularities with respect to the issuance of Belizean nationality to various persons." It goes on to say "However, this office's work along with the police department...has not confirmed the criminal liability of any particular person or persons."

     On August 5th, 2002 Minister Samuels resigned as Minister of Immigration and Home Affairs. That same day the Prime Minister appointed him Minister of Transport, Public Utilities and Communications.
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