Saunders points finger at locals over sham marriages

| 07/12/2022 | 71 Comments

(CNS): Border Control Minister Chris Saunders has said that Caymanians should recognise the value of their birthright and stop entering into marriages of convenience, as they are not only criminal but an immoral practice. He said this practice is making a mockery of marriage, which is the traditional foundation of family life in Cayman. According to officials at Workforce Opportunities and Residency Cayman (WORC), since the beginning of this year, the enforcement unit has investigated 175 sham marriage reports, and 114 cases resulted in “adverse findings”.

Another 25 cases are pending investigations, while 20 residency and employment rights certificates (RERC) have been refused, 12 have been forfeited and five more couples have been warned that the certificate for the non-Caymanian spouse is likely to be revoked.

Statistics provided by the Judicial Administration show that since 2016 marriage and divorce rates in the Cayman Islands have increased. In 2016 there were 150 divorces and 493 marriages, while in 2021 there were 266 divorces and 655 marriages, which does not include visitors who marry here for destination weddings.

Saunders has been saying for some time that he has concerns about the number of sham marriages entered into for immigration purposes. He has said that the current delays in processing permanent residency applications are due to the need to scrutinise them because of the increase in the number of suspicious marriages.

The minister welcomed a recent workshop hosted by WORC for 43 marriage officers who are at the front line of this issue. The workshop, conducted by Compliance Manager Jeannie Lewis, was designed to help them identify marriages and civil partnerships of convenience.

“I am very pleased to see these kinds of workshops being conducted,” Saunders said. “It is important that marriage officers be educated on how to identify the fraudulent practice of entering into a marriage or civil partnership of convenience, in order that they do not become unwittingly implicated.”

Saunders raised his concerns about the practice saying he understood why people from overseas may be desperate, but Caymanians were selling their birthright.

“In my view, it is disappointing that so many people seek to circumvent our immigration regulations by entering into a sham marriage,” he said. “It is making a mockery of the institution of marriage, which should not be entered into lightly as it has formed the traditional foundation of family life in our society. I understand that desperate people will take these kinds of steps, but Caymanians need to recognise the value of their birthright and not give it away by entering into such false marriage arrangements.”

He added that while it may not seem like a big deal in the moment, “it is an illegal and immoral practice with potentially far-reaching and long-lasting effects, including potential criminal prosecution”.

The Immigration (Transition) Act 2021 defines a marriage or civil partnership of convenience as one that is entered into with the primary intention of avoiding, or benefiting from, the provisions of the Marriage Act and it carries a penalty of up to a $10,000 fine or a year in jail. The law notes that “if a marriage officer fails to report his or her suspicion to the Director of WORC without delay and in such form and manner as may be prescribed, the marriage officer, the Registrar, the Civil Registrar or the civil partnership officer commits an offence”.

Officials at work said that there are many reasons why individuals enter into sham marriages to gain an immigration-related benefit. They happen most to enable people to remain here and find work. Common scenarios noted by WORC include individuals reaching their term limit, having a work permit refused, or getting their final extension to remain. The loss of appeals or denial of permanent residency are other reasons people look for a potential Caymanian spouse who can help them remain.

Suspicious marriages and civil partnerships usually take place shortly before or after legal means of remaining in the Cayman Islands have been exhausted, but in some cases people attempt marriages or civil partnerships of convenience after being charged with a crime and when facing court proceedings. Caymanian spouses are often willing to participate in sham marriages due to the promise of financial benefit.

However, it can still take a long time for a foreign national who marries a local person to gain the right to stay and work and some end in divorce before they reach the goal. In some cases, WORC said, people have been known to marry another Caymanian in hopes of a better outcome.

During the workshop, a red flag checklist was provided to marriage officers to consider before marrying or entering foreign nationals in civil partnerships with Caymanians. Since the rollout of this checklist and the workshop, marriage officers have refused some marriage applications, WORC said. Acting Deputy Director of Compliance Mervin Manderson thanked his team for holding the workshop and creating an effective checklist.

“I am glad to see the very early positive results it has already produced,” he said. “Marriage and civil partnership officers should realise the important part they play in risk managing potential sham marriages. WORC will continue to work with marriage and partnership officers to share intelligence and information to strengthen our abilities to make such unethical and illegal behaviours difficult to achieve.”

Manderson added that the enforcement unit would continue to investigate information and reports received about sham marriages or civil partnerships.

Individuals or marriage officers who suspect a marriage or civil partnership of convenience has occurred or will occur can make an anonymous complaint here
or via email to worccomplaints@gov.ky


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Category: Crime, Immigration

Comments (71)

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  1. David J. Conte, New Jersey / West Bay says:

    As an American who has ties to Cayman, physical, financial and emotional, I am heartened that this topic is addressed in this manner. How reassuring to see the word ‘moral’ in a government statement, the concept of personal responsibility being addressed. This has evaporated in the United States. The insanity we are experiencing here, exponentially escalating over the last several years, places us on a path that will cause a great deal of pain when the pendulum finally begins to swing back.
    The moral foundation of the Caymanian people is one of the three pillars of love I hold for the country (climate and beauty being the other two). As a guest I offer no opinion on the topic other than to say I am a libertarian at heart. Live and let live. The only way a libertarian philosophy works, however, is with personal responsibility. The role of government is to bridge Gods laws with the free will of the people. The Ministers statement and the comments that follow work well to that.
    God Bless you all and a Merry Christmas

  2. Anonymous says:

    Using 2021 divorce rate as a marker against previous years is speculation out of context at best! Its likely that it took till 2021 for all the paperwork and filings of many separations (divorces) to go through frow the “make it or break it” period of during lockdown!!

    MANY countries recorded a sharp increase in divorces following the lockdowns – 2020 or 2021 depending on how tedious the process is for various jurisdictions.

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  3. I. C. It says:

    Pathetic bottom feeding populism.

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  4. CG says:

    Arent all marriages for convenience? Who gets married for inconvenience?

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  5. Anonymous says:

    Define “Local” if you dare Minister Saunders….

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  6. Anonymous says:

    This may be slightly off topic but I noted this graphic on the left hand side of the WORC web page.
    https://www.worc.ky/images/WORCExpressApplicationNoticeFlyer2022.jpg

    Preferential treatment is given to those who are in a position to ante up some dollas. Cayman Islands: the Land where money speaks loudly. Food for thought: So what happens if everyone pays for Express service? How long will it take for an application to be processed then? Back to square one, huh?
    Can anyone tell me, on the average, what the processing time difference is for an Express application versus their regular slowrass service?

    I suspect that the Express Application process takes longer than a regular application took five years ago. In Cayman you pay extra to get the type of service we should ALL expect to get. Mediocrity is the norm, pay a premium if you want good service.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Funny that this is a crime that has to be necessarily committed by Caymanians, and they still want to blame the expats. If Caymanians were so kind and honest as they say, there would be no sham marriages

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    • Anonymous says:

      @1:57:
      Under the law, both the Caymanian and the person wishing to derive immigration benefit from marrying the Caymanian, have committed an offense and are subject to prosecution.

    • Anonymous says:

      Well you would assume that expats are involved 50%.

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    • Anonymous says:

      More hot air being spewed by wind bag politicians but nothing will come of it. Have to get to a meeting and give big daddy Dart some more money or concessions. Or pay the suspended Miss Cayman the stipend and do not pay the ones doing her job anything. Typical double talk.

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  8. Anonymous says:

    Due to the continual evolution in the reasons and rules involving human parings, it will become ever more difficult to differentiate between “legitimate” marriages/unions and sham unions or union of convenience. For the balance of this comment comment, unless specified otherwise, I will use the word Union to describe both marriages and civil unions.

    These days some people highly value their independence and individuality, even in a marriage or civil union. I know people in Unions who maintain a high degree of independence and autonomy. Some women refuse to change their names. Some men do not want their bride to assume their name. Some men assume her name. I know of quite happy and loving Unions, some right here in all three of these islands, in which the partners do not believe in monogamy. There are sound Union in which the partners maintain his and hers homes in which they spend most of their time. Some legally joined couples might have separate bank accounts, and some might maintain an ethically non-monogamous lifestyle.

    I know of couples who have been involved in a durable relations who chose to marry only because estate, tax laws, insurance rules and rates, and social benefits laws favour married couples. Is this not a marriage of convenience?

    A married couple from Texas with whom I was friends for a long time and still hear from on occasion, maintained separate bank accounts, separate houses, separate investments and separate…sex lives. I have no doubt that they have a solid, deeply emotionally involved, caring and very mutually supportive and respectful marriage. Last I heard they had been together for over 22 years.

    What gives the State the right to demand that certain ancient conditions and expectations–largely derived from religious doctrines–must be met in order to consider a Union legitimate? What traits mark a legitimate Union anyway?

    Yes, those who enter into Unions of convenience may suffer loss. But that also applies to “conventional” Unions: just ask some of those involved in a divorce and the dissolution of property and child visitation rights decrees.

    Some people marry so they can enjoy a life of lavish leisure as the spouse of a wealthy person. We see a lot of that here. In return, the provider of the money and good life gets companionship, and probably sex and lots of it. Is this not a classical definition of prostitution? Why is it inherently illegal if he or she provides the personal perks in exchange for marrying so the person can enjoy the immigration benefits?

    As long as the two parties enter into the Union with full knowledge of what they are getting into and are clear of the expectations of their partner, and they mutually agree in an informed manner to the ground rules, responsibilities and benefits, should they not be left alone to enjoy their chosen Union and the perks and benefits thereof?

    What about a woman who would ordinarily be hesitant to marry but ultimately chooses to marry the man she loves solely because she does not want to see him have to leave the islands until they have had a shot at a relationship?

    The point is that people may have many non-traditional motivations for entering into a Union, not all of which bear on love, procreation or having any “family” beyond just the couple. Non-traditional motivations for entering into a union do not in any way erode the traditional foundation of family life in our society, as the zealous politician insists.

    Modern Unions and their underlying dynamics are ever evolving. I do not buy into all the results of this evolution, but the fact is that this evolution will continue to take place regardless of my personal opinions. Accompanying this evolution will be the difficulty of defining and identifying “sham” Unions.Some moralists here might rant that my Texas friends have a “sham” Union. Nope.

    I leave you with a lesson from history: In light of the hoopla here in a British Territory against sham unions and marriages of convenience, it is interesting to note that, until relatively modern history, weddings among royalty and the the elite of society in the British Isles were often much more about dynasty, hegemony, political expedience, diplomacy, and convenience, rather than love. One of the most shocking examples of which to modern sensibilities is the 1251 marriage of Margaret, eldest daughter of England’s King Henry III and queen consort Eleanor of Provence. It was arranged for Margaret to marry Alexander III, King of Scots. The bride was 11 years old. But lest readers think that the groom was a lecherous pedophile, I shall point out that at the time he had reached the ripe old age of 10.

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  9. Anonymous says:

    no saunders….it is ur very own immigration department and laws indirectly forcing ppl to get married because of the rights that come with it….e.g. i have to get a wk permit for my GF to take care of our generational caymanian child? prove immigration i can pay health..pension plus salary? but if i say “i do” no need for nothing? hypocritical laws…as why legitimate child has more rights than one born out of wedlock?

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    • Anonymous says:

      @12:14:
      Your last question is spot on and similar to one I often pose to right-to-life proponents who side with carving out an exception for incest and rape: Why does the totally innocent unborn child who was conceived of incest or rape have less of a right to live? What did they do deserve being dismembered in the womb and their ripped apart remains thrown in with biowaste to be incinerated? I know many right-to-life so-called Christians who side with the carving out of rape/incest exceptions so the unborn child can be carved up. Does Jesus think that’s cool? I should think not.

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  10. Anonymous says:

    But aren’t marriages supposed to be a financial decision?

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  11. Anonymous says:

    How long do two people need to be dating to satisfy Mr Saunders? I knew after first date that I had found my person. Seems highly subjective for the territory to intervene on lawful marriages. What are these criteria?

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  12. Anonymous says:

    Question for the minister: if you have a Caymanian couple and the husband (prominent Caymanian public figure) is always messing around with his concubines and sending sexually harassing text messages to women at his office. Would that be grounds to have his marriage investigated as a fake marriage also? Why do we have two standards in place ? Caymanian couples can be married and carrying on with the worst behavior meanwhile expat spouses are investigated like criminals. Does anyone else see the hypocrisy?

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  13. Anonymous says:

    The only feasible way forward is for Minister Saunders to become ‘match maker’ and arrange all marriages.

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  14. ELVIS AGAIN says:

    I myself was personally asked if id be interested in marrying a Jamaican girl who was due to be rolled over. I had residency at the time and the guy was serious too. a very popular respected guy he is too. All I had to do was marry her and live as husband and wife in same apt. separate bedrooms if i wished. wow

    u just looked at him.

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  15. Anonymous says:

    So if your a woman who loves a woman you can’t get married, but if you do it for money have atter.

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  16. Anonymous says:

    The bottom line. All that matters on this pebble is the almighty dollar. Every nationality will screw over any other nationality if it means a few bucks in their hip pocket. So give it a rest Saunders.

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  17. N says:

    “Since the beginning of this year, the enforcement unit has investigated 175 sham marriage reports, and 114 cases resulted in adverse findings”.

    So how many cases have been referred for prosecution?

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  18. Anonymous says:

    ‘but Caymanians were selling their birthright’

    Well at least they’re cognisant of what they’re selling whilst Govt is selling everything else attached to it from under them that they’re not privy to.

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  19. Anonymous says:

    Not a damn thing convenient about marriage. Trust me.

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  20. Anonymous says:

    Does the Cayman Ministers Association have a comment or are they too focused on the non-problem of gay marriage?

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    • Anonymous says:

      Of course not. Unless one sprinkles G A Y letters somewhere along the line. We know how to catch their attention by now.

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  21. Anonymous says:

    Umm, Chris. Dude. You know that PR applications and Sham Marriages. Are unrelated – right?

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    • Anonymous says:

      sorry that was inappropriate, it’s a good investment for the long-term. turbulent in the short-term. I think the population expanded at 12% net migration which is like the highest in the world 🌎. just a weird time and many will be out to game the system, good suffer with the bad.

  22. Elvis says:

    Ive seen so many fake weddings.
    These young fool girls have no sense or self respect it seems, they flood the island with cheating fake grooms.
    Call them to right now and ask them where their husbands are. All they can tell you is he out while they nurse their 4 kids probably

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    • Anonymous says:

      Wait, it works the other way too. And then there are the career husbands/wives who offer to marry you if you pay them X amount amonth (so you can stay on island).

  23. Anonymous says:

    This is something that goes on everyday and it us us Caymanians to blame. I know a friend of mine that did this and lost his house after she threw him out and his now wife has brought all of her children from Jamaica here and have them living in his house. The $500 a month he got until she got PR was not worth it.. now he has nothing.

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    • Anonymous says:

      You can’t spell, can’t write a logical sentence, so I surmise you can’t figure out how to ZIP your pants. This is so endemic in Cayman; young men with no morals, women with no morals – -nothing to do do with church/religion… just morals. Very lacking.

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  24. Anonymous says:

    Fair enough, but why are they not processing people who are unmarried? Or people who have been married longer then 3 years?

    Also people married to Caymanians do not go through the points systems anyway. This delay is a Farce and clearly the government will end up in court and will lose.

    “He has said that the current delays in processing permanent residency applications are due to the need to scrutinise them because of the increase in the number of suspicious marriages.”

    Taking us for morons.

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  25. Anonymous says:

    Is the Minister aware that entering into a marriage of convenience is clear grounds for revocation of status, including if status was granted by Cabinet?

    That would be an offense made possible or facilitated by the grant.

    Are we to see our laws enforced, or not?

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    • Anonymous says:

      Section 34. Immigration (Transition) Act.

      “Where the grantee of the right to be Caymanian or of Caymanian status under this or any earlier law is convicted by any court in the Islands or elsewhere of an offence –

      (b) which, in the opinion of the grantor, was made possible by, facilitated by or connected with the grant,

      The grantor may revoke the grant on that person’s own motion.”

      Chris, you know that means that if any cabinet status recipient has entered into a sham marriage, or fronted, their status is liable to be revoked. By Cabinet. That means, effectively, YOU!

      You going to do it, or like many of the marriages, is your pretense at enforcement a sham?

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  26. Anonymous says:

    Joke. Did he point his finger at the New Caymanians who are doing this too?
    Or does the data conveniently not differentiate!

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  27. Anonymous says:

    Finally someone that makes a case for marriage and stands against unfaithfulness and the breakdown of family.

    This is rare – even your radio personalities are engaged in secret affairs but quoting Scripture left right and center on talk today

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  28. Anonymous says:

    This is you top priority ? Lord help us all …

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  29. Anonymous says:

    I know for a fact quite a few caymanians have been offered good money to participate!

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  30. Anonymous says:

    Please don’t forget the many Caymanians who have lost their lives and the trend continues because of these greedy, wicked people have no qualms getting rid of them )killing them)!!

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  31. Anonymous says:

    It’s about time.. criminal activity ramped.
    Immigration is a joke. Certain Marriage officers needs to be investigated.

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  32. anon says:

    How does one determine that a marriage is a sham?

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  33. Corruption is endemic says:

    Saunders words are more of a sham than the marriages he is talking about.

    Blaming the investigation of “Sham marriages” for a total shutdown of PR processing is beyond ridiculous.

    Just start doing what the law requires.

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  34. Anonymous says:

    One minute you’re giving seafarers a $150 NAU bonus so they can treat their latest young bride – and the next you’re grinding their imported hoochie momma preferences. Confused messaging!

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  35. Anonymous says:

    Well at least it’s not the LGBT community being blamed for making a mockery of traditional marriage!!!

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  36. Anonymous says:

    Even real marriages are shams. My wife promised me she would cook, clean and love me. Ring on the finger and pot nah put to stove yet…..dolly house mashed up!!! At least these people are getting something for their vows – 12 years later all I have seen are bills and more bills from this marriage. Just saying.

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  37. Anonymous says:

    So they were blocking same sex couples from the right to family life for ages, even though they had to provide us with the same rights to family life they had according to the Constitution that Cayman enjoys and the Constitution they voted for. How immoral was that homophobic division?

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  38. Anonymous says:

    start with processing anyone not Caymanian and work through those first then? Oh wait, this is just another excuse to not grant legal rights. lawsuits await again on the public purse because of our inept political tricks.

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  39. Anonymous says:

    Minister Chris Saunders should concentrate on stopping the human trafficking at local bars.

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  40. Anonymous says:

    I’m here for the comments

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  41. Anonymous says:

    Entering into marriages of convenience is so wrong and pathetic but so is living in marriages being aware that instead of two in the marriage sometimes there are three or four or as man as can be hoodwinked to play. Blessings on those who can truthfully say that their marriage is blissful nurturing and honest and above reproach.

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  42. Anonymous says:

    Caymanians fronting businesses as well for foreigners is a big problem. Caymanian owners not paying pension, or not paying a proper wage. Seems to be a pattern here.

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  43. Anonymous says:

    would love to see how they prove this in court….

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  44. Anonymous says:

    I suspect that a lot of the so-called “locals” are not as local as you might think.

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  45. Really ... says:

    What has happened to “Let no man put asunder”?

  46. Anonymous says:

    Just to be devil’s advocate, 2021 probably had more marriages because of the amount that had to be delayed because of 2020 and the pandemic. You have to look at all information.

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  47. Anonymous says:

    Perhaps investigations should also occur for the many donkey years this has been going on. Not to mention the other illegal immigration activities going on especially with a certain politician cough cough…

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    • Anonymous says:

      It is called corruption. In other places it is abhorrent and stamped out. Here it is mainstream. Thank Helen. And Martin, who finally may have noticed, but too late.

  48. Anonymous says:

    At least the crackdown will keep some lawyers employed.

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  49. Anonymous says:

    And of those 114 fraudulent marriages how many have been prosecuted?

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  50. Anonymous says:

    114….since Sir SelloutAlot’s policy of permits for whomever can pay, how many financial service permits have been issued, after position is chummed by a slimy recruiter, with unnecessary requirements? You’re a joke Simple Saunders.

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