-Minister battled documents fraud, fake business weddings, foreign missions
In late 2005, the local US Embassy in Georgetown believed that the then Minister of Home Affairs, Gail Teixeira, was an honest, forthright official who genuinely wanted to fight corruption and inefficiency in her portfolio.
Teixeira had called the meeting with the US Embassy officials on December 23 to discuss, among other things, the incidence of fake civil documents being discovered by the Consular Section.
However, while the Embassy thought her honest, it also believed that the Minister who took over from Ronald Gajraj was still too soft for the position. Gajraj demitted the post after being mired in allegations that he was involved in having links to a killing squad.
“Another possibility is that the position has overwhelmed her. Post rates Teixeira highly as an honest, forthright interlocutor. However, more than a few Guyanese insiders think of her as a lightweight better suited to her previous position as Minister of Youth, Culture, and Sport.”
The feeling of the Embassy is contained in a December 28 secret cable sent by then Charge d’ Affaires, Michael Thomas. The cables were part of a cache of sensitive documents acquired by whistle-blower website, WikiLeaks, and released on the website.
The cables have reported on incidents and in many cases shown the local US Embassy’s feelings and opinions on the incidents. Government has dismissed the relevance of the released cables, many of them proving embarrassing.
Teixeira had wanted to be briefed on the extent of fraudulent birth and marriage certificates issued by the General Register Office (GRO) that had been detected by the Consular Section.
“Teixeira was particularly worried that she is not getting full and accurate details on these incidents in the briefings GRO gives her. Deputy Consul described the problematic birth and marriage certificates submitted to the Consular Section in Immigrant Visa cases, which appear to have been genuinely issued using GRO paper and seals, but which were not obtained in accordance with Guyanese law.”
The issues include the ease which birth certificates were issued and the “business” marriages.
“Minister Teixeira expressed what seemed to be genuine displeasure with these improperly or unlawfully issued civil documents involving GRO. She explained how she is already trying to fix the problem. She has confronted GRO about similar incidents but to date GRO has denied responsibility for the fraudulent documents. However, the evidence is too convincing now — the paper stock, seal, and signatures of these certificates are all genuine.”
Regarding marriages, Teixeira told embassy officials that she had revoked the license of one marriage officer and was said to be scrutinizing the entire marriage licence process, the US Embassy reported in the cable.
Teixeira, during that meeting in 2005, had mentioned several suspicious visa cases on her plate. “She said this flow of people wanting to enter Guyana on unlikely pretenses could relate to trafficking in persons, the gold and diamond industries, arms smuggling, or terrorist links. She said she would like to work with (US Government) to prevent these activities.”
The then Minister also disclosed that she was taking a hard line with tour operators applying for visas for large groups of young, single, businessmen purportedly traveling to Guyana for tourism.
Teixeira also described the steps she has taken to curtail irresponsible, or corrupt, consular operations at Guyana’s diplomatic posts.
“She said she encountered “great resistance in foreign missions trying to tighten up on visa issuances” and lamented that the (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and other ministries do not understand that visa officers overseas are an important part of the country’s security apparatus.” All diplomatic missions are supposed to send visa issuance reports to the Home Affairs Ministry, but the Ministry receives them six weeks after the fact when the travelers have already either transited Guyana or have arrived and disappeared, the cable said Teixeira told them during the meeting.
Guyana has managed to bring Beijing, China visa operations under control.
“Guyana has ceased issuing visas for Chinese to join their families in Guyana, although Chinese are still granted visas to work in the timber and sugar industries… She said that a corrupt system operated in China involving the mission and the Ministry. Now, the mission in Beijing can only deal with bilateral cooperation and investment issues.”
During the meeting, Teixeira acknowledged there “was quite a lot of corruption in the immigration division”. She has tried to deal with it by firing many employees in the Ministry. However, she fears that these corrupt former employees will sell their knowledge of the system and ability to forge documents.
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