Minister of National Security Marvin Dames.
By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
NATIONAL Security Minister Marvin Dames yesterday declared “no one is above the law” as police continue their investigation into bribery claims at the Immigration Department.
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation claims it recovered more than six hours of audio recordings featuring an unnamed immigration officer discussing bribery payments made to senior officials to secure permit approvals.
The bribes ranged from $400 to $2,500, and the recordings were obtained from a forensic audit of a cell-phone seized as part of an undercover FBI investigation into US visa fraud at its Nassau Embassy.
A team of investigators from the Royal Bahamas Police Force and an attorney from the Department of Public Prosecutions were briefed by the FBI in November.
When contacted on Tuesday night, Commissioner of Police Anthony Ferguson told The Tribune the team was “reviewing the information” related to the matter.
Meanwhile, Mr Dames said yesterday, “[Police] continue to investigate these matters and I’m certain at the appropriate time the Commissioner will update members of the public.
“It’s a matter that’s been played out in the press and anytime when allegations are made against Bahamian officials, we have an obligation to investigate, to be very transparent, to be resolute, and that is exactly what the Royal Bahamas Police Force is doing.”
Mr Dames added: “No one is above the law and in this case the police force will not cover up for anybody.
“We want to be transparent in our dealings.”
Yesterday, human rights group Rights Bahamas called for a full and independent investigation by a special task force into the FBI’s revelations.
The group suggested the task force to be led by “the Royal Bahamas Police Force and also include migrants’ rights activists, human rights attorneys and possibly, international anti-corruption experts.”
“Over the years, Rights Bahamas and other activists have received numerous claims of bribery, extortion and blackmail at all levels of the Immigration Department,” RB’s statement noted.
“This includes sworn statements by victims which are in the public domain as part of court actions against the department for wrongful detention. As far as we know, these allegations have never been investigated.
“Certainly, they have all gone unpunished.
“If even a portion of these claims hold water, it would mean that hundreds if not thousands of migrants, suspected migrants and their families have been victims of an organised, well-oiled machine for the collection of illicit profits through bribes, as well as by means of threats, intimidation, coercion and illegal detention.”