Home Affairs Minister, Clement Rohee on Tuesday sharply rejected criticisms of the appointment of the Head of the Strategic Management Department of the Guyana Police Force, Patrick Mentore, because his name had been called in a major American visa racket.
“A man published a book the other day and tried to discredit him to say that he ought not to be part of the Strategic Management Department of this new institution that was established because of his association with some episode that took place in this country some time ago but we (are) not accepting that,” he said.
Mentore, a former police officer, had gone on to work in the Public Affairs section of the United States embassy here at a time when Consular Officer Thomas Carroll had sold hundreds of visas.
Mentore’s name is featured prominently in David Casavis’ book titled “The Thomas Carroll Affair”. Release of the book came shortly after Mentore’s appointment, raising questions in some circles about his suitability for the job.
Mentore was never charged here or in the US with any visa-related offence.
Addressing a Security Seminar organised by the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), the Home Affairs Minister dispelled suggestions that he had any role in the appointment of the Strategic Management team. At the same time, he stood behind the decision by the interview panel to pick Mentore, a former Assistant Superintendent of Police, and other team members.
“We have expressed our full confidence in the persons who are part and parcel of this Strategic Management Department because an interviewing panel sat, some very distinguished individuals in our society,” he said.
Heading that panel was former Guyana Defence Force Chief of Staff, Retired Major General, Joseph Singh. “They interviewed these individuals one by one , grilled them, asked them some very searching questions and at the end of it they made their recommendations.
He explained that Home Affairs had nothing to do with the work of the interviewing panel other than accept the panel’s recommendations.
Mentore, who resigned from the Guyana Police Force in 1997, was among several local embassy staff who had been relieved of their duties at the time of the Thomas Carroll visa-scam.
The other members of the interviewing panel were Professor Al Creighton –UniversityofGuyana; Mr. Ronald Webster Chairman – Private Sector Commission; Cpt. Gerald Gouveia, – Member – Private Sector Commission; Mr Seelall Persaud, – Deputy Commissioner Law Enforcement; Mr Andrew Grant Principal Personnel officer, Public Service ; Ms Candace Elias Treaty Officer, Ministry of Home Affairs, and Ms Joan Craigen – Executive Assistant, Citizen Security Programme.
The purpose of the Panel as reflected in the Terms of Reference agreed upon was to interview, evaluate and recommend persons who in their collective opinion are suitably qualified to fill the ten positions which were advertised in January 2013 by the Government of Guyana through the Ministry of Home Affairs.
These positions include Head – Strategic Management Department, Team Leader – Strategic Management Department, Strategic Planning Officer, Change Facilitation Officer, Change Communication Officer, Project Coordinator, Coordinator Monitoring & Evaluation, Risk Management Officer, Analyst and Research Officer
A total of forty nine (49) applications were received covering all ten positions.
In March 2000, Carroll was arrested for selling at least 800 visas for entry into the US for between US$10,000 and US$15,000 each. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States Government, issuing false visa documents and bribing an official and was sentenced to 21 years imprisonment by a Federal Court in Chicago, Illinois. The sentence was later reduced after he appealed.
Guyanese Halim Khan, now a key figure in the Guyana-Cuba Friendship Society, was also sentenced to 38 months jail for his role in procuring visa-buyers.
Several Guyanese policemen were used as enforcers in the Carroll visa racket.