Cablegate: Fraud Summary-(Vientiane): Q1 Fy 2008

DE RUEHVN #0180/01 0801022
R 201022Z MAR 08





E.O. 12958: N/A

A. (U) The Lao People's Democratic Republic is a least-developed
country with a single-party communist government. With an estimated
$572 per capita income, Laos is one of the poorest countries in East
Asia. Nearly 71% of the population lives on less than $2 a day,
with 23% living on less than $1 per day. Illiteracy is about 47%.
Agriculture is the major sector of the economy, contributing 46% of
the GDP and employing approximately 79% of the population, mostly in
subsistence farming.

The main contributors to fraud in Laos are poverty and the large
proportion of the population with family ties in the U.S., as
citizens attempt to illegally emigrate permanently, often to join
relatives there, or to temporarily work illegally in the United
States. Most of the applicant pool at Embassy Vientiane, as well as
most of the fraud, comes from two of Laos's 49 ethnic groups: the
ethnic Lao and the Hmong. The ethnic Lao are the largest ethnic
group in Laos. The Hmong constitute about ten percent of the
population of Laos but make up an estimated 25 to 30 percent of our
applicant pool. There are almost a third as many ethnic Hmong in
the U.S. as there are in Laos. The most recent U.S. census
estimated that 170,000 ethnic Lao and 170,000 ethnic Hmong currently
live in the United States.

Passports and national ID cards are the only nationally issued forms
of identification. The information on a Lao passport or ID card
cannot be accepted at face value. False or duplicate identities are
common among visa applicants. Obtaining a passport issued with a
false identity is relatively easy, in many cases not even requiring
a bribe. Laos does not have a well-established tradition of civil
documents, and, as such, there is little standardization or security
for documents such as birth or marriage certificates. Additionally,
many of these documents are issued at the village level by the
village chief, and, as such, will say generally whatever the
requestor wants them to say. Many documents submitted to the
Consular Section in support of an application for any service are
handwritten. Further, forged or false business licenses, bank
books, identity cards, and household registration books are common.
Detection of altered or fraudulent documents is usually easy as
production is unsophisticated.

2. (U) B. NIV Fraud

Eighty-nine percent of NIV applicants at post are B2 applicants, the
majority of whom are applying to visit relatives. Identity fraud is
the largest problem facing the Consular section in Laos. Some
applicants who are refused visas return at a later time with a new
identity which is reflected in a new national ID card, new household
registration, and new passport. Vientiane has one of the highest
adjusted NIV refusal rates in the world. A recent B1/B2 validation
study indicated a high non-return rate, thus we consider this post
to be a medium fraud post.
Religious Worker Visas. The board of directors of a Lao Buddhist
temple in Arkansas reported in December 2007 that the previous abbot
and president were fired for financial activities not approved by
the board, including inviting unneeded monks from Laos. FPU had
noticed a spike in this temple's applications since May 2007 and had
been monitoring new cases, until this confirmation arrived. The
abbot was not supposed to be in Arkansas in the first place; his
visa authorized residence at a temple in Las Vegas. This is
indicative of a suspected larger problem of "monk-swapping" by
temples and "temple-hopping" by R-1 recipients. Four monks assigned
to Wat Buddha Samakittham were elsewhere. Two of them were elsewhere
with the blessing of the original temple, who noted that they no
longer wish to be held financially responsible for these two. The
FPU will conduct a validity study to better gauge the scope of the
practice of monks leaving or changing temples and their return rate.
The FPU has been tracking past and current R-1 requests for the
approximately 100 Lao temples in the U.S. We have enacted other new
screening measures for R-1 applications, such as using pre-interview
check-lists, requesting more complete supportive documentation, and
occasional quizzing of monks in Pali and Sanskrit, the sacred
languages used by Buddhist monks.

B1/B2 and P1 visas. One well-known Lao singer diverted from her
avowed non-profit performances to engage in a full scale concert
tour of the U.S. She has been entered P6C into CLASS. During the
Hmong New Year in December, we experience an annual rush of poorly
qualified singers, dancers and artists wishing to perform at
festivals in the U.S. This has prompted closer examination of
performers and their venues. P-1 performers are likewise being held
to a stricter interpretation of INA 101(a)(15)(p)(i)(b)(I) that
stipulates that an entertainer "perform with or is an integral and
essential part of the performance of an entertainment group that
has... been recognized internationally as being outstanding in the
discipline for a sustained and substantial period of time." Most of
these P-1 applicants for the last few years were sponsored by a
single firm based in Virginia, specializing in tours of temple
venues. They received a standard $200/week salary plus tips, with a

VIENTIANE 00000180 002 OF 002

good return rate from a mini-validation check-up. On closer
examination, we found that their evidence for international
recognition and professional history was lacking. When we checked
with temples appearing on a list of proposed concert venues, we
found almost none had been contacted by the concert organizer yet.

3. (U) C. IV Fraud: For Lao IV and K1 visa applicants, there is a
certain amount of relationship fraud, consistent with a medium fraud
level. This generally includes sham relationships for immigration
benefit through a K-1 visa application. Post is developing a list of
fraud indicators commonly seen in sham fiance relationships based
on Lao and Hmong cultural norms. The limited education of most Lao
applicants and the culturally accepted practice of arranged
marriages means that some bona fide applicants and their fianc(e)s
in the United States who have every intention of marrying and
following immigration law may not have the kinds of evidence of
relationship that we would like to see (such as specific knowledge
about each other's lives, interests, etc.).

4. (SBU) D. DV Fraud: Medium Fraud. As mentioned in the fourth
quarterly report for 2007, many "winners" of the DV lottery could
not substantiate education or vocational qualifications. Suspicious
spousal relationships are common.

5. (U) E. ACS and Passport Fraud: Low Fraud. There is a growing
number of American citizens in Laos, as tourism to Laos is growing
and as Lao-Americans return for tourism, business, or to retire. ACS
reviews PIERS for any application to replace a lost or stolen
passport, as well as for other ACS services where questions arise.
Because of the still small numbers of American citizens resident in
Laos, CRBA issuances are still relatively low (31 in 2007). Post
uncovered no fraud in the CRBA applications. However, post has
recently suggested DNA evidence to prove paternity in four CRBA
cases. Those cases have not yet been resolved.
6. (SBU) F. Adoption Fraud: Medium with high potential. Adoption of
a Lao child by a foreign citizen is prohibited in Laos. However,
because it was prohibited by Prime Ministerial decree, the Prime
Minister's office can waive the restriction. The PM's office usually
does so if the adopting parents are close relatives of the children.
As such, post sees very few adoption cases (7 in 2007). Post
occasionally sees adoption cases where American citizen relatives
try to adopt children that are not true orphans. In these cases, the
surviving biological parent (or parents) generally state that they
gave up custody of the children to their relatives "to give them a
better life." In 2007, an American church-based NGO has begun the
process for opening an office in Laos that would eventually
facilitate the adoption of Lao orphans by U.S. citizens.
7. (U) G. Asylum and other DHS Benefit Fraud: Nothing new to
report. There is little or no asylum or DHS benefit fraud from the
limited number of Visa 92/93 cases that post processes. In cases of
suspected relationship fraud, or where EOR is lacking, post has
suggested DNA tests to prove the relationship. One malafide
applicant was discovered through DNA in 2007.
8. (U) H. Cooperation with the Authorities: The Consular Chief
meets regularly with working level counterparts at the Consular
Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to discuss Lao
passport fraud. Each week, three to five applicants present
duplicate passports issued with new names, surnames and dates of
birth. This is done in an attempt to hide prior refusals. Consular
officers confiscate these passports, which are detected during the
visa interview process by the IDENT system. The passports are
returned to MFA with information about the applicants and their
claimed identities.

MFA officials have stated that the false identity problem is a local
problem, as vital documents are issued at the village level,
household registrations are issued at the district level, identity
cards are issued at the provincial level, and passports are issued
based on those documents.
While the MFA has stated that holding two identities is a crime
under Lao law, they have not clarified what penalties these crimes
might warrant, and what procedure one must follow to legally change
one's name (a common occurrence in Laos, generally to change one's
luck). The MFA has requested that we send any fraudulent identity
passports to them for their action, but there seems to be little
follow-up by authorities to punish offenders.
Most requests to meet with immigration police or district and
provincial officials must go through the MFA. Most government
officials will not meet with us unless there are diplomatic notes
between the Embassy and MFA regarding such a meeting. MFA response
time to meeting requests is slow and sometimes non-existent.
9. (U) I. Areas of Particular Concern: Post holds consular lunches
with other Embassies' consular representatives on a quarterly basis
to share issues of concern and fraud trends. Australia, France,
Germany, Japan and Singapore Consuls usually attend.

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