Frankly Speaking… By A.A. Fenty

… And Tom’s “VIP” Visas
Without much doubt, the Roger Khan Drugs trial in New York, USA and the revocation of our local Supreme Court Registrar’s US Visitor’s Visa stimulated me to record some observations, old and new.

Much is being written about the Americans’ ability to arrest, indict and prosecute local alleged Drug Cartel Barons whilst the local forces and justice system seem sterile.  For whatever reasons.  The point has been made that the Americans are now reluctant to share sensitive, confidential information with local agencies because they perceive that our people – government officials and police investigators – cannot be trusted fully.  It’s the same with the Americans’  treatment of officials, say, in Mexico and Colombia.  Just contemplate how lowly we –as a country still boasting a reasonable kinship to the rule of law – has dropped in some sections of international estimation.  Even if some of those who judge and assess are themselves guilty of double-standards and of providing the best of reasons for the crooks and bandits of poorer societies to be in continuous business.

Frankly Speaking, as a layman, I am still befuddled by the intricacies of the American Justice System, especially as it entertains the concept and practice of plea bargaining. Then there is the active component of parole, obviously a boon to easing the rampant overcrowding in US prisons.  With the hope that parole facilitates community-oriented, accelerated rehabilitation of the hopefully-penitent convicted.

Just consider the objectives of plea-bargaining.  I’m not competent to explore all the elements or advantages of that system.  Supposedly, it involves negotiations between defence and prosecution with a view to “advantages” accruing to both sides.  The accused (prisoner on trial) will get significantly-reduced sentences – if the judge agrees with the bargain – in exchange for information, evidence, testimony and other possible forms of assistance that the accused agrees to offer the prosecution.  Upon the prosecution’s request or suggestion.   Naturally, all the accused’s offers must be verifiable and credible.

When the negotiation, or bargain is complete in all its legal and judicial ramifications, the accused then enters the consequential plea.  I hope that’s the basic.  But is it not all up to the judge?  So how will the self-confessed Guyanese “Baron” fare? What?  It depends on whether the Americans are satisfied as to how much they now know?
Somebody assist me here…
The Americans and our “Status”

What is  your view of the American assessment of our country’s national standing in the depressed “First, Second and Third” world(s)?  You know that even if you don’t think much of their opinions and assessments, the international institutions lend an ear to what the US State Department, their DEA and other specific agencies report periodically. I suppose a Third World government has to be able to persuade a Third Party not to be influenced by all the Americans think, assess and conclude. Challenging, isn’t it?

I often wonder what the State Department Homeland  Security with its Immigration arms, thinks about Guyanese immigrants in Obamaland.  As against other immigrants from other lands? What is Guyanese immigrant status in the eyes of American officialdom who concern themselves with such matters?  How do Guyanese differ from Koreans, Pakistanis or Russians in the USA – if there are any?
Back in Kingston, Georgetown, look what the Consular  Section in the American Embassy caused to happen the other day!: Our Supreme Court Registrar – with high court judge status – and a former powerful army chief have to prove  and convince people that they did nothing wrong, with respect to some US visa application.
So much for American perception of local status. But don’t forget that last week is not the first incidence of American visa displeasure. Government Ministers, top policemen and Sportsmen are, or were, deemed not welcome to even visit the land of opportunity. (It’s not the end of the world if you can’t enter through their ports; it’s what the refusal or revocation means to others!) Which brings me to Tom’s V.I.P. Visas…
Tom’s Front-Track V.I.P. Visas
Do you all recall the most high-profile American Visas–for-money racket headed by then US (Georgetown) Consular Officer Thomas “Tom” Patrick Carroll?
That scam made an earlier, similar Canadian racket look like merely Sunday-School bad-business. In case you missed it, Mr Carroll used his (good) offices to provide legitimate U.S. Visitor Visas to applicants – genuine or procured – who could afford to pay very much money for each such visa. (Please realize, readers, that a visa is merely permission to apply to enter American ports of entry. One is hardly denied entry once the visa was issued after much processing by the locally-based U.S. Consular Officials). Tom Carroll made millions in bills and bullion off his scheme.
But it is all that he revealed; the Guyana names he mentioned; the system and procedures of the Grand Scam; the involvement of local agencies and the “status” of some local players – private sector “captains of industry” senior police and army officials, wives and girl-friends of officials and specific staff members of the Embassy when his visa racket was at its peak between 1998 and 1999, which is a Case Study of such rackets.

The Court Statements make fascinating reading still. Even Carroll thought it “sad” that even well-to-do Guyanese – after free and fair elections late 1992 – would go to extremes to flee from the “corrupt” country with their loved ones. From an affidavit by then US Ambassador James F. Mack outlining how Tom Carroll’s arrest in March 2000 affected the Kingston Embassy’s morale and “status”, to tales of America Street money-changers and homosexuals to Chinese connections, to the descriptions and categorizations of the Scam-players as money moving/laundering and visa brokering/enforcement, the US Court and State Department Office of the Inspector-General Records make for compelling study. If that type of stuff interests you.

But could you guess? Inevitably (?), in the end, one Guyanese visa racketeer Halim Khan, charged alongside Carroll, plea-bargained, testified and they were both jailed. “Good behaviour” and appeals resulted in lessened sentences for both. Though much of Carroll’s massive takings were confiscated, I suspect he might be still financially comfortable. Ah well, American justice …

One basic, revealing and profound lesson struck me during Tom Carroll’s trial in Illinois. It was this: The US Embassy’s Consular (Visa) Section decides just how many visitors’ (non-immigrant) visas it will issue per week, or per month, to us. An average, law-abiding, genuine would-be visitor or tourist to New York could own half of Georgetown or be a priest, he or she will not be successful once that period’s quota has been met.

Carroll revealed a varying refusal rate, including a minimum of thirty percent (30%)! It means that when Carroll adjudicated Visa applications for money, hundreds of innocent qualified visitors were refused visas in favour of his clients.
The honest applicants who, most likely, would have returned to Guyana were routinely deemed “intended immigrants”, without enough ties to their homeland. Wonder what the policy is these days? Especially for those of us who care not to live in President Obama’s Nation of Immigrants?

My other curious conclusion was/is this one: when the crooked Consular Officer issued his visas – he called them “V.I.P. Tickets” he was, in fact, sending the successful spenders through the legitimate “front-track”. No back-track there. It was only how the valid visa was acquired. Understand? More next time!

1) At American airports, with my Guyana passport, do I look like a retired terrorist?
2) I hardly read the Kaieteur News’ Parrot and Blame features. But I refuse to believe that someone I know well, writes them!
3) Next Friday: Frank Fyffe’s letter.
4) Name one female Chanderpaul Cricketer.
5) Former English Captain Naseer Hussain tends to talk down to the current English Captain on tour.
6) Last Thursday I told Clive Lloyd I knew his mother, then asked Viv Richards about Lara as batsman and Captain. What did Richards say?
7) Not Chanderpaul! Name the Providence Stadium, the Kanhai-Lloyd Stadium!
’Til Next Week

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