Corruption in Immigration
PANAMA. The Immigration Department, Maria Cristina Gonzalez said that she has found a net of corruption that was operating within the o...
PANAMA. The Immigration Department, Maria Cristina Gonzalez said that she has found a net of corruption that was operating within the organization.
She discovered that 15 visas were given to Chinese citizens by the Visas Department, although the government had ordered the suspension of the process until further notice.
Preliminary data in the investigation have shown that a net of corruption exists in which several legislators, whose names have not been revealed are involved in the scam.
Apparently they went over the head of the Immigration director and ordered the civil servants to approve the visas.
It appears that a group of civil servants together with several legal firms were conspiring to obtain visas for foreigners in exchange for an undetermined amount of money.
As a result of the investigations the visas process have been suspended in the Immigration Department, while the authorities check if the 300 visas that were approved during the last two weeks of the Martin Torrijos administration are in order.
Gonzalez said to TVN that she is writing a report about the case, which she will present to President Ricardo Martinelli.
The director said that the civil servants involved in the scam have been fired and the matter sent to the Public Ministry for further investigation. The Immigration Department has been under fire for years, because the processes are cumbersome and lengthy.
The Law Society has complained on multiple occasions about the archaic paper base system and advocate for the purchase of computers, but to no avail.
Corruption allegations are not new and many foreigners who are looking to expedite the visa process have been forced to pay extortionate amounts of money to their lawyers, so they can give bribes to dishonest civil servants.
With the new Immigration Law given until the end of August to finalize all pending visas, otherwise they will be given automatically to those who are still waiting, the scandal could not have come at a worse time. While the 300 visas in question are checked, the ones that are pending cannot be approved, which will result in hardship for those foreigners who are being waiting for years for the process to finish and obtain their residency.