COP: Police close investigation into FBI visa scam — no evidence

COP: Police close investigation into FBI visa scam — no evidence
Police Commissioner Paul Rolle (FILE PHOTO)

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — After nearly two years of working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on a visa scam probe in The Bahamas, Commissioner of Police Paul Rolle said yesterday the local arm of the investigation did not substantiate the allegations against top immigration officials.

Rolle spoke with Eyewitness News on the sidelines of a press conference at police headquarters on Thursday.

“We did what we had to [do],” said Rolle, who headed the Anti-Corruption Branch of the police force as assistant commissioner before being appointed as commissioner in March of this year.

Asked if the investigation had been completed, Rolle said: “Yes, we have from our aspect. The officers attended the FBI in the United States, and I just received from them a package with all of the evidence.

“And the issue now is determining whether or not the individual; his nationality, whether he is Bahamian or Haitian.

“He has done time in prison in the United States.”

When asked whether there was anything the Royal Bahamas Police Force had to follow up on locally, Rolle said: “No.”

He was also asked whether further probing was needed of immigration officials.

He responded: “No. There is nothing substantiated in that, okay.”

The FBI investigation began in October 2016.

An affidavit filed in Washington, D.C., by FBI Special Agent Kevin Gounaud, who detailed the FBI’s two-year probe, outlined conversations between undercover FBI informants and Edward Israel Saintil, a Haitian-Bahamian, who the FBI identified as the alleged lead conspirator in the matter.

According to Gounaud, Saintil claimed in those conversations that he could help obtain work permits and facilitate illegal entry into the United States.

The special agent also alleged in the document that Saintil claimed he had relationships with top immigration officials, including former Director of Immigration William Pratt.

Pratt refuted the allegations, denying having ever met Saintil or having any dealings with him or “any other person in an illegal, unlawful conduct of any kind”.

Pratt said he planned to seek legal redress.

According to the affidavit, Saintil came to the attention of U.S. law enforcement after Edna St. Fleur attempted to gain illegal entry into the U.S. with documents allegedly provided to her by Saintil.

“In November 2017, at the direction of law enforcement, a Confidential Human Source asked St. Fleur to introduce him to Saintil for the purpose of obtaining Bahamian work permits for two other Confidential Human Sources to facilitate their illegal entry into the United States,” the affidavit reads.

The FBI also claimed it had more than six hours of audio recordings between Saintil and an unnamed immigration officer discussing bribery payments made to senior officials to secure permit approvals.

In November 2018, Minister of National Security Marvin Dames said a team of investigators from the police force and an attorney from the Department of Public Prosecutions were headed to Washington to meet with the FBI to discuss the findings of the undercover investigation.

At the time, Attorney General Carl Bethel said while the matter will be dealt with through the appropriate channels, the allegations contained in the affidavit were unverified.