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Cablegate: Fraud Summary - Freetown

VZCZCXRO7777
RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMA RUEHMR RUEHPA RUEHRN RUEHTRO
DE RUEHFN #0489/01 2770948
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 030948Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY FREETOWN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2234
RUEHPNH/NVC PORTSMOUTH NH 0004
RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 0517
RUEHFT/AMCONSUL FRANKFURT 1470
INFO RUEHZO/AFRICAN UNION COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 FREETOWN 000489

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR CA/FPP
DEPT PLEASE PASS TO KCC WILLIAMSBURG KY
ACCRA FOR DHS
FRANKFURT FOR RCO

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KFRD CVIS CPAS CMGT ASEC SL
SUBJECT: Fraud Summary - Freetown

Ref: STATE 074840

---------------------------
Country Conditions
---------------------------

1. Freetown is a high fraud post. Despite much progress
since the end of an 11-year civil war in 2001, Sierra
Leone is ranked last on the UN Human Development Index.
As such, socioeconomic conditions for many residents are
poor and many people seek a better life elsewhere. There
is a large diaspora of Sierra Leoneans throughout the
world, especially in the U.S. and UK. Sierra Leoneans
often expect, and receive, remittances from extended
family members living in wealthier countries.
Furthermore, many Sierra Leoneans will try to join their
family members abroad, legally or illegally. Also,
corruption is present at all levels of society,
particularly in government. It is therefore easy to
obtain authentic documents with false information,
sometimes by bribing officials.

---------------------------
NIV Fraud
---------------------------

2. Most NIV fraud consists of false bank statements and
invitation letters. This usually results in a 214(b)
refusal rather than a formal investigation by the Fraud
Prevention Unit (FPU). However, over half of NIV cases
referred to the FPU are confirmed as fraud. B visas
constitute eighty-four percent of all applications. Of
the rest, only F visas (4.97%), G visas (2.8%), and A
visas (2.7%) each exceed two percent of the visa
caseload. Within these categories, the most
disconcerting is relationship fraud for official and
diplomatic dependants. Diplomats and officials,
including very high-level emissaries, commonly make
fraudulent claims regarding biological and adopted
children in order to bring them to the U.S. These claims
are always supported by Notes Verbale, which are another
area of concern to us and the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs. Post has received both unauthorized and
fraudulent Notes Verbale supporting official and non-
official visa applications. Students typically apply for
visas to attend schools selected due to a family member
living nearby or being on the school staff, suggesting
the possibility that the student application is a cover
for intending immigrants. Several of the relatively few
high school student exchange visitors and conference
participants have not returned from the U.S., with or
without attending the intended program first. Little-
known and unvetted Sierra Leonean organizations usually
find program participants, and are likely responsible for
organizing the alien smuggling under the unwitting aegis
of well-meaning, established U.S. entities.

Document fraud is very common. Official documents are
rarely forged since authentic documents with false
information are easily obtained. For example, late or
delayed birth certificates based on reports from the
"parents" are often issued many years after the child is
born. With this birth certificate, a passport is
obtained. At least once a month, IDENT and FR hits
uncover an applicant with a second identity.

---------------------------
IV Fraud
---------------------------

3. Embassy Dakar processes Sierra Leone's Immigrant
Visas.

---------------------------
DV Fraud
---------------------------

4. Embassy Abidjan processes Sierra Leone's Diversity
Visas.

---------------------------
ACS and U.S. Passport Fraud
---------------------------

5. There has been little U.S. passport fraud, other than

FREETOWN 00000489 002 OF 004


occasional photocopies of U.S. passports of alleged
inviting relatives presented during visa interviews. One
imposter was turned back twice at the local airport with
someone else's U.S. passport, before the passport was
returned to the Embassy.

---------------------------
Adoption Fraud
---------------------------

6. Embassy Dakar processes Sierra Leone's adoptions.

---------------------------
Use of DNA Testing
---------------------------

7. Due to CRBA cases often coming from non-traditional
family situations and unreliable birth certificates, DNA
testing is recommended in about 70% of cases. In about
15-20% of those, the blood relationship has been
disproved, and in about 10% of cases, applicants have
abandoned the application after DNA testing was
recommended. Post also handles DNA testing for DHS upon
request, but does not usually receive the results.

----------------------------------
Asylum and Other DHS Benefit Fraud
----------------------------------

8. V92 and V93 cases are not processed by Embassy
Freetown. Most are processed by Embassy Conakry or
Embassy Dakar. Embassy Freetown also receives many
requests for transportation letters from LPRs who have
lost or stolen I-551s. There has been little fraud in
that regard, though there is an applicant with a pending
case who likely was outside the U.S. longer than a year
and is lying about it.

--------------------------------------------- --------
Alien Smuggling, Trafficking, Organized Crime, Terrorist
Travel
--------------------------------------------- --------

9. Post has seen several instances of alien smuggling
where an adult chaperone accompanies teenagers ostensibly
bringing students for an exchange program or conference.
In some instances where the visas were issued, the
children never returned.

--------------------------------
DS Criminal Fraud Investigations
--------------------------------

10. The consular section referred only one case in the
last six months to RSO for investigation. Due to post's
small size, the referral was handled informally. RSO and
Fraud Investigator jointly interviewed the applicant, and
RSO investigated the case further, then provided conoff a
copy of the formal written report.

--------------------------------------------- --------
Host Country Passport, Identity Documents, and Civil
Registry
--------------------------------------------- --------

11. PASSPORT: The Sierra Leonean passport in production
since 2001 has a machine-readable bio page with a photo-
digitized picture (large and small) and signature. Older
passports were declared obsolete in 2002. Post does not
have any specimens. Applicants must present a birth
certificate and national ID card and, in theory, come for
an interview. However, false breeder documents are
easily obtained and are not verified by the Immigration
Office. There are three passports: regular (passport
numbers beginning with the letter "O"), service (passport
numbers beginning with "S"), and diplomatic (passport
letters beginning with "D"). The three passport types
are very similar except for the word "Service" or
"Diplomatic" on the cover above "Passport." All inside
pages have watermarks and the passport number hole-
punched at the top. Passports contain the following UV
luminescent features:

-- Cross-hatching on inside covers
-- Crest and hidden lion on inside front cover

FREETOWN 00000489 003 OF 004


-- Hidden passport number on page 1 (regular passports
only)
-- Page numbers and a square at the edge of each page,
starting at the top and moving down each page until the
center of the book, then back up.
-- Sierra Leone Crest at the bottom of each page and
"Republic of Sierra Leone" near the top.
-- Monochrome binding string, between pages 16 and 17.


ID CARD: Government contractors produced machine-
readable National ID cards from 2000 to 2004. The GoSL
has not contracted a new company to produce them yet.
While there are theoretically records of these cards,
since the contractor is not involved anymore, there is no
way to verify them. Older, non-machine-readable, cards
had no records at all. Both cards are easily photo-
subbed. In lieu, the National Registration Secretariat
now issues letters signed by the Chief or Deputy
Registrar and with a passport size photo attached, asking
the bearer to be excused of any requirement for an ID
card. The letter is not laminated, nor is it registered,
allowing for very easy forgery and nearly impossible
registration.

BIRTH CERTIFICATES: Birth certificates come in several
varieties, depending on when the birth is registered:

-- 0 to 30 days: original
-- 31 days to 1 year: late
-- Over 1 year: delayed

Certified true copies, which are transcriptions of the
information in the registers rather than facsimiles of
the original certificate, are available. Often, the
registrar's office will issue a delayed certificate
instead of a certified copy as they can charge more for
the delayed certificate and it does not require a record
check. Also, applicants may obtain a delayed certificate
with false information. All birth certificates are
printed on paper stock with a single-colored pattern
background. The registrar fills the data in handwriting,
and then stamps and signs. While post occasionally sees
forged birth certificates, authentic certificates with
false information are so easy to obtain that the latter
are much more common.

Most Sierra Leoneans do not register births, especially
if the child is born outside of a hospital or health
center. At the hospitals and health centers, nurses
record births but parents must take these forms to the
nearest Office of the Registrar of Births and Deaths for
registration, which most parents fail to do. Some
parents do not have birth records because most provincial
records were destroyed during the war. In order to give
a fair chance to those who were not registered and to
facilitate registration of births, there was a mass free
registration of children aged 0 to 18 on June 20 to 21,
2003 in commemoration of the Day of The African Child.
All birth certificates issued during this period had the
prefix "DAC" followed by a number. Records for DAC
registrations are unreliable difficult to access, and
therefore especially prone to fraud.

DEATH CERTIFICATES: Death certificates are equally easy
to obtain. Birth and death certificates are issued by
the Office of the Registrar of Births and Deaths, which
has a head office in downtown Freetown and sub-registries
at health centers in other parts of Freetown and the
provincial towns and villages. In theory, one should
present a medical report of death and can give
information on the death orally or in writing. If done
orally, the registrar enters the information in the
prescribed form, reads it out to informant and asks the
informant to sign. This should be done within fourteen
days of the death so that the Registrar can issue a
burial permit.

EDUCATIONAL DOCUMENTS: West African Senior School
Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) statements of result,
issued by the West African Examinations Council, are
perhaps the sole Sierra Leonean documents that are easily
and reliably verifiable. The WAEC country director
insists that all statements of results for U.S. visa
purposes go through Embassy Freetown, so other posts

FREETOWN 00000489 004 OF 004


should not accept results presented directly by the
applicant. The FPU can now check WASSCE results from
2000 and later online. About 30 percent of certificates
checked are false. Unfortunately, there is no easy way
to distinguish results between multiple people with the
same name, leaving the door open for fraud. WAEC's other
exams, taken after primary school (NPSE) and ninth grade
(BECCE) can be equally checked. Other school records are
far less reliable and very prone to fraud as applicants
frequently bribe school officials or generate documents
from schools which do not keep sufficient records.

REGISTRIES: When registry volumes are filled up, they
are sent to the Freetown main office, allowing the FPU to
verify registrations relatively easily. However,
verification of certificates only proves that the events
are properly registered, not that they actually took
place. Among birth and death certificates verified, 93.3
percent come back as properly registered, but field
investigations often prove that registered events never
occurred.

--------------------------------------------
Cooperation with Host Government Authorities
--------------------------------------------

12. Post has not recently interacted with host
government authorities on fraud matters. Given the
generally ineffective and often corrupt local judiciary,
reliable fraud prosecution is unlikely.

---------------------------
Areas of Particular Concern
---------------------------

13. All areas of concern have been addressed elsewhere
in this telegram.

---------------------
Staffing and Training
---------------------

14. The Deputy Consular Section Chief serves as Fraud
Prevention Manager in addition to his other duties,
including adjudicating visas and providing American
citizen services. He has not received any formal fraud
training beyond what is included in the Basic Consular
Course. There are two FPU LES staff. The senior of the
two also handles federal benefits services. Both have
taken the FSN Fraud Prevention Workshop (PC542) at FSI
and Detecting Fraudulent Documents (PC544) online. The
FPU primarily handles the large load of investigations
for IV cases from Dakar, DV cases from Abidjan, V92/V93
cases from Conakry, and various requests from DHS in
petition or adjustment of status cases. The case load
can at times be overwhelming, particularly when the
annual DV deadline approaches.

FEDZER

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