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Cablegate: Convictions in New Zealand's Largest Passport

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L WELLINGTON 000911

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP/ANP, DS/IP/EAP, DS/ICI/CR, DS/CR/PF, DS/IP/ITA
AUCKLAND

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/31/2014
TAGS: ASEC SENV TSPL NZ
SUBJECT: CONVICTIONS IN NEW ZEALAND'S LARGEST PASSPORT
FRAUD CASE

REF: WELLINGTON 605

Classified By: POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC COUNSELOR KATHERINE B. HADDA,
FOR REASONS 1.5 (B,D)

1. (U) In what media reports have called the largest
passport forgery case of its kind in New Zealand, two
refugees to New Zealand, Iraqi Fahad Jaber AJEIL (age 29) and
Kuwaiti Riyad Hamied SULTAN (age 29), were found guilty
October 21 of conspiring to commit forgery. The prosecution
accused the men of producing hundreds of fraudulent passports
and other falsified travel documents from 17 countries,
including the United States, Liberia, Australia, Bolivia,
Colombia, El Salvador and Yemen. During the case,
investigators claimed that 50 passports or travel documents
had already been delivered. In addition to conspiracy, Ajeil
was also found guilty on 13 other counts, including
possession of items capable of forging documents. Ajeil and
Sultan will be sentenced in December.

2. (U) A third individual, Kuwaiti Dr. Salam ABU-SHAABAN was
identified as the ring-leader of the forgery plot, and was
named in the conspiracy charge in absentia. Although the NZ
Police have not spoken with Abu-Shaaban, he contacted NZ
National Radio by telephone from Kuwait. In the interview,
Abu-Shaaban not only denied any involvement in a forgery
ring, but also denied being Kuwaiti, claiming to be from
Lebanon. Evidence of his involvement was found by the NZ
Police's Metro Special Investigation unit, after they were
able to translate Arabic documents found on the computers of
Ajeil and Sultan. Evidence was given in the trial that
Abu-Shaaban claimed to be the consul for six or seven
nations, and issued passports for a number of countries, all
claims that he denies.

3. (SBU) During the case the defense counsel drew parallels
between the Prime Minister's handling of this case and of a
recent case involving two Israeli citizens deported for
attempting to falsely procure a New Zealand passport
(reftel). The lawyer claimed that Prime Minister Helen Clark
refused to pressure the Kuwaiti Government for information
related to Abu-Shaaban due to the multi-million dollar trade
in sheep with Kuwait, noting that by contrast NZ and Israel
have minimal trade linkages. Defense counsel also tried to
paint the men as altruistic individuals trying to provide
passports for stateless Bedouins living between Iraq and
Kuwait, but the prosecution dismissed this claim of charity,
citing the money taken for production of the passports.

4. (C) NZ law enforcement indicated to Post that they were
unable to find any ties to terrorist organizations or
activities by Ajeil, Sultan and Abu-Shaaban. It is likely
that the men were involved in these activities solely for
personal monetary gain.
Swindells

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