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Fbi Briefing Over 'Visa Fraud' Sting

Minister of National Security Marvin Dames.

Minister of National Security Marvin Dames.

By AVA TURNQUEST

Tribune Chief Reporter

aturnquest@tribunemedia.net

NATIONAL Security Minister Marvin Dames told reporters yesterday the Federal Bureau of Investigation is expected to fully brief Police Commissioner Anthony Ferguson this week on the findings of its two-year undercover investigation into an alleged visa fraud at its Nassau Embassy.

He said local law enforcement will then make a determination on whether any Bahamian laws were broken, and take the necessary measures.

“We have had some initial discussions with the US,” Mr Dames said before heading into a Cabinet meeting.

“The FBI is now working in consultation with the Royal Bahamas Police Force, who will receive a further briefing on the information they (the FBI) may have at their disposal, and we will determine from that information whether any laws in the Bahamas have been broken.

As things stand, Mr Dames said the government has no evidence at this time to support bribery claims made against senior immigration officials in an FBI agent’s affidavit on the alleged local US visa scam.

He told reporters: “Now I want to be very careful, and I want you to understand me very clearly, alright? I’m not going to speak specifically to that matter. There are a number of, and I’ve seen it and I’ve heard it, a number of persons, a few who I know personally, whose name has been out there in social media and in the papers to date.”

He continued: “We have no information, none whatsoever despite what may have been reported in the press, implicating any of these individuals and so I want to make that very clear.”

The affidavit of special agent Kevin Gounaud details conversations the scam’s alleged lead conspirator, Edward Israel Saintil, had with undercover FBI informants concerning his ability to obtain fraudulent Bahamian work permits to shore up US visa applications.

Saintil is alleged to have boasted of having relationships with top immigration officials, naming both current and former directors Clarence Russell and William Pratt, respectively.

Both senior officials have fully denied the claims. The affidavit also referenced by name another high-ranking immigration official who allegedly was paid a bribe to approve a work permit.

Saintil also reportedly alleged that immigration staff did not process work permits unless they are paid to do so, with bribe payments said to be thousands of dollars.

Mr Dames’ comments followed assurances from Attorney General Carl Bethel, who broke his silence on the matter outside Cabinet yesterday.

Mr Bethel told reporters the due administration of law would be executed to ensure good governance.

The Attorney General said he received a copy of the FBI agent’s sworn affidavit early last week, and immediately forwarded the court document to the police with instructions for it to be referred to its anti-corruption unit.

He cautioned the allegations against senior officials contained in the affidavit were unverified, and would have to be reviewed.

“We owe it both to the administration of justice and to these persons to have this matter reviewed so that if there is nothing that can substantiate it, that will be known, if there is some other problem well that will also be dealt with," Mr Bethel said,

“That is where we are, I just want to assure the Bahamian people that so far as the due administration of law is concerned, we are doing exactly what we need to do, to properly ensure that we have good governance in the Bahamas.

It is unclear when the government became aware of the two-year joint investigation by the FBI and the Department of State Office of the Inspector General (DOS-OIG), or its findings.

The shocking claims were first reported by The Tribune last week.

Outside Cabinet yesterday, Mr Dames stressed it was “nothing new,” and the result of ongoing partnerships with US official, like OPBAT.

“We continue to work in joint matters on everything from drugs, to alien smuggling, to firearms trafficking,” Mr Dames said.

“These are ongoing partnerships that we continue to have with countries around the world,” he continued, “and as countries do their own investigations and the investigation reach a stage where they can affix charges and put people before the courts, and now they feel here is an opportunity we gotta now share what it is we have, whenever we have it. We do the same thing, this is no different if we are investigating something and then it leads into another country - we share.”

Mr Dames said: “And we say here is what we have, you make a determination whether any of your laws have been broken and how can we work together jointly to ensure that we are able to bring those who are responsible wherever they may be to justice. That’s how it works.”

Ahead of its exclusive coverage, The Tribune sent a series of questions concerning the allegations contained in Mr Gounaud’s affidavit to Press Secretary Anthony Newbold, Mr Bethel, Immigration Minister Brent Symonette, and Prime Minister Hubert Minnis.

Among those questions were inquiries about possible implications for intergovernmental relations; whether there had been any local coordination for any part of the undercover operation, and if not, whether that indicated a lack of trust.

Yesterday, Mr Bethel said: “As to the question of relations between states, that is a matter that firstly will find its expression in the relation between our Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the United States, and will also involve us ascertaining what the facts of the matter are, and exactly what may or may not have been done in the territorial boundary of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas.

“These things depend on the facts,” Mr Bethel said, “we are seeking to ascertain them.”

Dr Minnis said he could not comment on the allegations yesterday, citing an ongoing investigation.

Comments

TheMadHatter 9 months, 1 week ago

"...exactly what may or may not have been done in the territorial boundary of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas."

We have a territorial boundary? Anyone ever seen it on a map?

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TalRussell 9 months, 1 week ago

Alright, now Ma Comrades PeopePublic does wants be very careful tell minister Marvin that he should want understand and make it very clearly, alright that when there are a number of, and what he's seen it and heard it, a number of persons, a few who "he does know personally", whose names has been out there in social media and in the papers to date.... his and every other crown minister or officials in same position as "I does knows persons" personally, should have and should now generate an automatic "reclusion" from receiving and reviewing any and all documents, discussions pertaining all matters arising from and out immigration allegations. If there has be decision be moving forward or standing down on allegations.
Doesn't this call for an independent legal mind retired Justice, must be appointed make such decisions,.

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joeblow 9 months, 1 week ago

Who to believe, the FBI or a government representative? Hmmm...

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Well_mudda_take_sic 9 months, 1 week ago

U.S. government knows the Bahamas has been a bastion of corruption for decades now, from the top political elite (as they like to think of themselves) right on down to the lowliest of civil servants. And both Dames and Bethel know this too. LMAO

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screwedbahamian 9 months, 1 week ago

We Bahamians People allow these foreigners to come into our Bahamas land illegally and become legal through CORRUPT GREEDY CIVIL SERVICE EMPLOYEES, by selling Bahamian birth rights with no conscience. Now the Illegal CORRUPT Foreigners are trying to place America in the same category as the CORRUPT Bahamas, NOT HAPPENING PERIOD, NOT UNDER PRESIDENT TRUMP OR AND AMERICAN PRESIDENT OR GOVERNMENT.

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sheeprunner12 9 months, 1 week ago

Are we to believe that NO Immigration or other law enforcement officer has NEVER taken a bribe??????? ............... smh

These Directors and Ministers better be careful before they get "muellered" by the FBI.

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concerned799 9 months, 1 week ago

Are foreign law enforcement officials now authorized to act in the Bahamas without local counterpart involvement? An update on the legal basis for all this I think is required, most would have been under the impression this was not allowed in the Bahamas.

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sheeprunner12 9 months, 1 week ago

OK .......... so the fox (Police) must watch the hens (Immigration)????? What a joke ............ when the police themselves are corrupt and callous.

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TalRussell 9 months, 1 week ago

Ma comrades, seems from reading charging documents - the tipster one the accused contacting the FBI were the US Embassy's visa division right here in we Nassau Town.....reinforced by US's customs and immigration pre-inspection process spotting potential visa/work permit fraud and working exactly as it should before passengers are cleared through to board their waiting aircraft's flight heading to USA.Charging documents that if I can find to read - so should the PM and his crown ministers, likewise should haven knows where go read them. The second accused was invited and showed up for a meeting FBI undercover agent.
On curious point of interest..... how is it when something big things which has hints negativity attached them -crown ministers always seem have experienced delay in documents reaching them ..... usually cause they were off island.

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SP 9 months, 1 week ago

Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!

Nothing will change in the Bahamas until we rid ourselves of the FNM and PLP!

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BahamaPundit 9 months, 1 week ago

The reason FNM is hesitant to comply with the FBI is that this is the tip of the iceberg. After this matter, the FBI will start uncovering all the corruption. If the FNM was seriously after corrupt agents, they would have proclaimed a public "thankyou" to the US Feds for helping the Bahamas root out corruption. The way they are moving slowly and their tone in relation to the FBI findings speaks volumes that the last thing they want to do is root out corruption.

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