Former Consular Officer Edy Duran was in collusion with local officials to secure genuine Guyana passports for foreign nationals who formed part of his clientele and were willing to pay thousands of US dollars for US visas, sources here say.
The passports, according to the sources were a cover for the scam as it would have raised red flags if dozens of foreigners turned up at the US Embassy in Georgetown and were granted visas while hundreds of Guyanese living here were refused. The ‘visa for sale’ racket based on what Stabroek News was also told targeted locals, including young women of a certain race.
Duran aged 41, who arrived here in 2011, allegedly sold visas for sums ranging from US$15,000 ($3M) to US$40,000 ($8M), and it is believed that he had help from other staff at the embassy, local officials who held high office and wealthy businessmen who had ties to the underworld. From all indications it was the foreigners who were mostly targeted as according to one source many locals did not have the money that Duran was asking for.
One source said that some time before Duran was busted, there were reports that a visa racket had started but it apparently took months before the US State Depart-ment acted. The source said that that in itself is very strange and there must have been officials at the embassy who would have heard that the Texas resident was socializing at places where he should not have been and was friends with persons he was supposed to stay away from.
According to the source, it is strange that US officials did not find evidence initially that Duran was following in the footsteps of Thomas Carroll, an Economic Affairs Officer at the embassy, who engineered a similar scam here the late 1990s, for which he was later charged and convicted. This newspaper was told that the Duran must have pocketed millions of dollars during his tenure here as it is believed that he started the racket shortly after his arrival in Guyana.
Persons apparently started raising questions after the information began circulating, but many opted not to say much since they were scared.
Stabroek News was told that at the popular city restaurant where Duran met some of his clients, the word ‘visa’ was never openly used during the conversations. Instead codes were used, the source said, explaining that in this way no one would know what was being talked about. Durant, the source said, had many friends from Berbice including a Corentyne
resident known to be a visa backtracker.
It is believed that this person helped the foreigners come into Guyana across the Suriname border, the source said, adding that once that was accomplished, those persons were handed their passports and arrangements were then made for them to meet Duran in the city.
According to what this newspaper was told, Duran preferred to meet these persons at businesses owned and operated by his friends.
It would appear that Duran would never meet the potential clients without friends in his company and they would then seclude themselves in a section of the restaurant. It was after their discussions, the source said, that dates were set for the monies to paid over in exchange for the visas.
There had been reports that Duran also traded sex for visas, but according to the source this might not have been so as Duran was seemingly motivated by money. The source said that women were always in the company of Duran or his friends whenever they moved about.
There has been no new information from the embassy here or in the US press.
In the July 9 edition of the Daily Caller, it was stated that Duran had been accused of selling visas for sex and money in what may have been a massive human trafficking operation. The online article stated that the scandal began when executives and tourists complained that their visa applications were being held up.
According to the Daily Caller Duran currently lives in Falls Church, Virginia.
It has also been reported in the US press that Duran travelled to neighbouring Suriname which is a frequent stop for Chinese migrants on the way to the United States.
The Department of State had said in a press release to the Guyanese media that it is aware of allegations of “improprieties relating to a Consular Officer formerly assigned to Georgetown, Guyana.”
It was stated that the Department took all allegations of misconduct by employees seriously. “We are reviewing the matter thoroughly. If the allegations are substantiated, we will work with the relevant authorities to hold anyone involved accountable,” it read.
Duran, according to reports, was sent back to the US three weeks ago before the story broke here during the first week of July, just two months before he would have completed a three-year stint here. This was done for a probe to be conducted, this newspaper had been told.
Among his friends and associates are a popular restaurant owner, a jeweller, a store owner and a stationery dealer.
This newspaper had been told by sources in the US that so far no charges had been laid against Duran and from all indications he was trying to make a plea deal. A source had said that he had provided investigators with information. The investigators are said to be in the process of doing an internal investigation which has to do with a review of Duran’s list of applicants, and it is hoped that from this list, contact could be made with some of those persons who in the end may be able to provide some crucial information.
The local police here are no way involved in the investigation, and US officials have not made contact with them. It is believed that this is because of a fear that the investigation would be compromised, as had happened in the past when persons wanted in a similar case fled Guyana before arrest warrants could be served on them.