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Cablegate: Damascus Fraud Prevention Management Report

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O 301015Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3942
INFO AMEMBASSY AMMAN
AMEMBASSY CAIRO
AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
AMEMBASSY SANAA
AMEMBASSY KUWAIT
AMEMBASSY ANKARA
AMCONSUL ISTANBUL
AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
AMEMBASSY MUSCAT
AMEMBASSY MANAMA
AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI
AMEMBASSY DOHA
AMEMBASSY ATHENS
NVC PORTSMOUTH 6392
HOMELAND SECURITY CENTER WASHINGTON DC
DIR FBI WASHDC
ATHENS FOR DHS
DEPT FOR INL/HSTC
DEPT FOR NPC PORTSMOUTH


E.O. 12958: N/A

UNCLAS DAMASCUS 000773

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

TAGS: CVIS CPAS KFRD KCRM CMGT ASEC SY

SUBJECT: DAMASCUS FRAUD PREVENTION MANAGEMENT REPORT
APRIL-JUNE 2007

REF:

A) 05 SECSTATE 205073
B) DAMASCUS 617
C) DAMASCUS 744
D) DAMASCUS 765


The following is submitted in response to the Department's request
in Ref A.

a. Country Conditions

(SBU) Syria has a centrally planned economy based on commerce,
agriculture, oil production, and services. A variety of factors
hamper economic growth, including the dominant state role in the
economy, a complex bureaucracy, security concerns, corruption,
currency restrictions, a lack of modern financial services and
communications, and a weak, corrupt legal system. Syrian graduates
find few job opportunities because of the controlled economy and
slow growth. Subsequently, economic conditions continue to provide
fertile ground for fraud as the young unemployed or
marginally-employed seek better opportunities in western
industrialized countries.

(SBU) Syria's population consists of approximately 18 million
Syrians, about 432,000 registered Palestinians, and an estimated 1.4
million Iraqis. However, there are no official records on the
actual number of Iraqis living in Syria, and estimates vary widely.
In Damascus, the majority of visa applicants are Syrians,
Palestinians and a few third-country nationals. However, recently,
Post has been experiencing a gradual increase in the number of Iraqi
applicants.

(SBU) In Syria, document fraud is relatively unsophisticated and
mostly limited to civil documents - birth, marriage, divorce, family
extracts, and employment letters. Identity fraud is a serious crime
in Syria, and penalties for tampering with civil documents are quite
severe. Given the difficulty of the U.S. relationship with the
Government of the Syrian Arab Republic (SARG), the consular section
has a limited working relationship with police, immigration,
airport, and government officials. All requests for police
assistance and document verification must go through the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs (MFA) via diplomatic note. Generally it takes from
30 to 90 days to verify a document. Therefore, each case is
extremely labor-intensive.

b. NIV Fraud

(SBU) NIV fraud continues to be mainly in the 214(b) area of
applicants who have the intention to immigrate, work or conduct
permanent business in the U.S. while on B1/B2 visas. Fraudulent
documents consist of bank statements, false letters of employment
and family books to prove applicants' ties to Syria.

(SBU) Post has seen a recent increase in Iraqi applicants as
tourists, students and medical cases. Post has instituted a new
policy that all Iraqi documents be reviewed by the FPU if the
applicant is going to be issued. Concerns over the authenticity of
Iraqi documents and lack of standardization of Iraqi passports are
mitigated by the fact that many Iraqis are found ineligible for
nonimmigrant visas under 214(b).

(SBU) Most of Post's H-1B visas are issued to Syrian medical doctors
willing to work in medically underserved areas. They are highly
qualified and there are few problems with these cases.

c. IV Fraud

(SBU) Post continues to be most concerned with sham marriage fraud
in fianc (K1) or spouse (K3, CR-1) cases.


(SBU) Recently Post discovered a trend of Syrian men who go to the
U.S. and acquire American citizenship through marriage to an
American Citizen even though they are still married in Syria. They
claim having either (1) divorced their first wife or (2) having had
a relationship with her out of wedlock, having had their children
born out of wedlock, and not being married to the mother until after
divorcing the American wife. According to Syrian civil law if the
divorce is not registered, the divorce is not valid. If people have
children out of wedlock it is impossible to register them on the
family extract without a court order. We are able to verify through
their family extracts that the children were born in wedlock and the
man had never divorced his first wife. This comes to light when the
men file Immigrant Visa petitions for either their first wife and
children or just the children. When they claim to have divorced
their first wife, a check of the family extract does not support
that claim and the majority of divorce certificates investigated
were found fraudulent.

(SBU) Post has seen a dramatic increase in Iraqi IV cases, mainly
due to the inability of Iraqis to travel to Cairo and Amman. The
majority of Iraqi cases are fianc (K1) or spouse (K3, CR-1) cases.
Fraud indicators involved in most cases include but are not limited
to unreliable documents and limited documentation. Since Iraqis are
not living in Syria, they do not generally travel with all of their
identity documents and are unable or unwilling to go back to Iraq
due to the current environment to get additional identity documents.
Post has instituted a new policy where FPU examines all Iraqi
documents before the IV officer conducts the interview. Over the
past quarter FPU has identified several bad "S" series passports,
one "H" series passport and one "G" series passport and a fake MFA
seal. (See ref B.)

(SBU)

d. DV Fraud

(SBU) FPU has not conducted any DV fraud investigations this
quarter.

e. ACS and Passport Fraud

(SBU) Post has not had serious cases of passport or CRBA fraud this
quarter. We are concerned with the issue of AmCits leaving the US
without a US passport (ref C) and with the increasing trend of Iraqi
and Iranians born in the US claiming citizenship as adults for the
first time (ref D).

f. Adoption Fraud

(SBU) Post completed its first adoption case under the new Syrian
law allowing Catholics to adopt Catholic children - no fraud was
detected.

g. Asylum and DHS Benefit Fraud

(SBU) During this quarter, Post has also investigated documents for
DHS in connection with naturalization proceedings, adjustment of
status, labor certification, and political asylum. Most of the
documents proved to be fraudulent, particularly divorce certificates
and employment and work experience letters.

h. Cooperation with Host Government Authorities

(SBU) As previously noted, the Embassy has limited liaison ability
with the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic (SARG). All
requests for police assistance and document verification must go
through the MFA via diplomatic note. However, the Consular Section
maintains regular contacts with counterparts from European and other


Embassies and takes part in regular meetings of the interembassy
anti-fraud working group.

i. Areas of Particular Concern

(SBU) No significant concerns to report.

j. Staffing and Training

(SBU) Post implemented a fraud prevention program in 2005. Post's
Fraud Prevention Unit (FPU) consists of an officer who shares duties
as Deputy Chief of the Consular Section and Fraud Prevention Manager
(FPM), and a full-time investigator. The FPM has taken the Fraud
Prevention course at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI). The FSN
investigator has attended the Fraud Prevention training at FSI.
Because of the strained relations between the United States and
Syria, DHS Athens and the Embassy are limited in their ability to
provide resources and training to SARG officials. The e-mail
address for the unit is FPMDamascus@state.gov.

(SBU) Post has implemented a regular training program that includes
civil and travel documents. This quarter, Post has continued to
focus on Iraqi passports and identity cards and has created a
reference library of authentic and fraudulent samples.

CORBIN

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