Cablegate: Fraud Summary - Brazzaville

Published: Mon 28 Sep 2009 06:09 PM
DE RUEHBZ #0275/01 2711809
R 281809Z SEP 09
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. Embassy Brazzaville is an unclassified post.
2. For the first time in 12 years, full scale NIV, IV and ACS
consular services are now available at Embassy Brazzaville. NIV
and ACS operations went live with the opening of the New Embassy
Compound in February 2009. IV operations resumed in late July
2009. Brazzaville is a high fraud environment and this new
Consular Section continues to train its new staff, develop fraud
prevention techniques, and build the strong relationships with
local institutions necessary to effectively combat fraud.
Country Conditions
3. The Republic of the Congo (ROC), commonly called
Congo-Brazzaville to distinguish it from the DRC, is
geographically slightly larger than the State of New Mexico. The
country is bordered by Cameroon and the Central African Republic
to the north, Angola (the Cabinda enclave) to the south, the DRC
to the east and the Republic of Gabon and Atlantic Ocean to the
west. ROC remains a post-conflict country and the years of
conflict have had a devastating impact on the economy,
educational system, infrastructure, health and medical systems,
and welfare of its people. However, since the signing of peace
accords between the government and the last remaining rebel
forces the peace trend has been progressively consolidated.
ROC's sparse population, estimated at nearly 3.8 million, is
concentrated in the southwestern portion of the country, with
about 70 percent of its total population living in Brazzaville,
Pointe-Noire or along the 332-mile railway connecting the two
cities. Years of mismanagement, neglected infrastructure,
corruption, and conflict have left the ROC with per capita
income of about USD $1,100 per year, widespread unemployment,
and an economy dominated by the informal sector. In fact, the
2007/8 United Nations human development index ranked the ROC
139th out of a total of 177 countries.
4. All these factors create a strong recipe for fraud in ROC,
as people seek to flee the rampant poverty, ingrained corruption
and low standards of living. Thus, widespread fraud is found
among all categories of visa applicants, albeit typically at a
low or rudimentary level. Genuine birth certificates and other
forms of identity are easily obtained using fictitious
biographic information and the attestation of three witnesses,
thereby facilitating the issuance of multiple passports with
different names and dates of birth. Names continue to pose a
problem for current fraud detection algorithms, as passports are
frequently issued with different variations of family or first
names (with first names either omitted or included as part of
the surname in subsequent passports).
NIV Fraud
5. Approximately 60 percent of B1/B2 applicants present
fraudulent documents such as fake bank statements or letters of
introduction. Post has also witnessed a recent increase fake
entry and exit stamps from the ROC and the United Arab Emirates.
The fraudulent documents are of varying qualities. Most fakes
are low level fraud easily detectible. However, given that many
banks often use several varieties of statements, a close working
relationship with financial institutions has proved essential
for higher levels of fraud. The most challenging type of fraud
related to bank statements involves applicants who present a mix
of real and fake documents. In the last three months post has
encountered numerous individuals who present real check books
and real bank id cards with a fake bank statement. These
individuals actually have legitimate accounts at the banks,
however, they use fake bank statements to misrepresent their
6. West African (primarily Malian and Senegalese) merchants who
control retail trade in the ROC represent about 10 percent of
B1/B2 applications received at post, but 40% of all refusals.
Overall, post refuses approximately 60 percent off all Malian
applicants and 70 percent of all Senegalese.
7. About 20 percent of post's NIV applicants are official or
governmental travelers. An area of particular concern with
official travelers isthe noted increase over the past several
years in the instances of official passports and government
travel orders issued to mala fide applicants. In July 2009, an
applicant with an official passport and travel orders came back
with IDENT/FR hits for having previously applied for a visa
using a different identity in December 2008. A joint
investigation with the RSO revealed that the applicant had
actually purchased all the documents from a vendor. The vendor
was was subsequently located and arrested by Congolese
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IV Fraud
8. Brazzaville resumed Immigrant Visa operations in late July
2009. This is the first time in twelve years that IV
applications are being processed in country and the staff is
still working to develop the skills and contacts necessary to
carry out the thorough document checks that IV applications
9. Post inherited approximately 70 pending IV cases from
Kinshasa. The majority of these cases are incomplete
follow-to-join asylee beneficiaries. We have also processed
approximately 5 immediate relative applications since IV
operations began. As ever, a loose definition of family - with
cousins, uncles and so on considered part of the nuclear family
- combined with a critical lack of reliable civil documentation
make IV cases challenging. ROC still has no standard format for
documenting the major life points - birth, death, marriage,
adoption or divorce - and civil law regarding issuance of these
documents is unevenly applied. DNA testing is recommended in
many cases involving children. Marriage fraud exists in asylum
cases as well as IR petitions and while post has not yet found
evidence of payment for marriages, most applicants have a very
difficult time demonstrating an ongoing relationship. Age fraud
is common among IV applicants and post has uncovered through
interviews married children attempting to pass as unmarried sons
and daughters.
DV Fraud
10. Post finds instances of fraud in the vast majority of its
DV cases, typically via falsified diplomas and other
"supporting" educational documentation. Pop-up marriages also
are common, with applicants fraudulently claiming as a spouse
someone with whom they cannot prove a legitimate relationship.
Post relies upon FPU investigations and strategic interviews
with applicants to discern fraud.
ACS and U.S. Passport Fraud
11. With a small-sized, resident American citizen community,
few tourists, and a solid fraud prevention program in place,
post has had no cases of ACS or U.S. passport fraud since
October 2007.
Adoption Fraud
12. Adoption cases are historically rare in ROC, with few cases
in the last six years. Thus, post has had to deal with some
adoption cases related to IV visas issuances. The cases were
proven to be conformed to the local procedures although it was
somehow difficult to establish the relationships. But post will
remain vigilant on these issues.
Use of DNA testing
13. In some cases, post recommends DNA testing as a means of
verifying claims of parental/child relationships in IV cases,
predominately for Visas 92/93 applicants.
Asylum (and other DHS benefits) Fraud
14. As with DV fraud, most of post's asylum fraud is related to
false relationship claims.
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Alien smuggling, trafficking, organized crime, terrorist travel
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15. ROC was on the Tier 2 Watch list for the second year in a
row on the 2009 Trafficking in Persons Report and is a source
and destination country for persons being trafficked.
DS criminal fraud investigations
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16. The RSO office provides excellent support for the Consular
office regarding fraud investigation. In recent months there
have been several referrals to the RSO office that have led to
arrests. Most recently, a fraud pattern was exposed where
applicants acquired bogus immigration entry and exit stamps for
the United Arab Emirates and the Republic of Congo ostensibly to
bolster the legitimacy of status as businessmen. The
collaboration of the Consular, the RSO and Congolese law
enforcement, resulted in the arrest of four individuals over a
span of 3 days (REFTEL).
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Host country passport, identity documents, and civil registry
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17. New machine-readable, computer-generated passports in
circulation since February 2008 have vastly improved the quality
and security of previous ROC passports. The new passports
include such security features as holograms, and come in three
types: diplomatic (red), official (blue) and regular (brown). In
2007, ROC ran out of its supply of regular passports and began
using a system of annotated official passports, with the "Code
ETR" denoting official travelers and "Code A" denoting regular
travelers. Those annotated passports will remain in circulation
through their expiration dates, meaning a mixture of valid ROC
passports will be in use for the next several years to come. As
always, there are no indications that the lax passport issuance
controls of the past have been improved and post continues to
watch for instances of passport fraud. Genuine birth
certificates and other forms of identity are easily obtained
using fictitious biographic information and the attestation of
three witnesses, thereby facilitating the issuance of multiple
passports with different names and dates of birth.
Cooperation with Host Government Authorities
18. The level of cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs and the immigration authority remains excellent and,
through post's RSO and security staff, relations with police and
law enforcement officials are good. Local capacity, however, is
limited. Local officials do not see visa or passport fraud as a
high priority, but they have been willing to pursue cases
developed by post.
Areas of Particular Concern
19. Brazzaville is resuming full scale operations after a twelve
year hiatus. Most consular operations including Fraud Prevention
must be rebuilt from the ground up. This reconstruction project
is being led by a first tour junior officer and three locally
engaged staff The only LES with more than 9 months experience
has just left the section to take a new job.
Staffing and Training
20. Brazzaville is a one officer post. Consular operations were
re-launched under the supervision of a TDY WAE Consul. The
entire operation was turned over to a first tour officer 10 days
after arrival at post. All three locally engaged staff working
in the consular section have less than one year's experience.
21. The limited experience of the section makes training a
priority for all staff. The LES have all completed PC 102, PC
103, and PC 104. The LES in charge of fraud investigations is
also enrolled in the online Fraud Prevention course. The
Consular Officer has not had any additional fraud prevention
training beyond ConGen.
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