Cablegate: Fraud Summary - Tallinn: Mar - Aug 2008
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHTL #0348/01 2770847
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 030847Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY TALLINN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0843
RUEHPNH/NVC PORTSMOUTH NH 0023
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHFT/AMCONSUL FRANKFURT 3118
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 2619
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TALLINN 000348
DEPT FOR CA/FPP
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CMGT KFRD ASEC CVIS CPAS EN
SUBJECT: FRAUD SUMMARY - TALLINN: MAR - AUG 2008
REF: A) 07 TALLINN 938 B) 07 STATE 83571 C) STATE 74840
Paragraphs below are keyed to Reftel C.
1. COUNTRY CONDITIONS: Economic growth in Estonia, previously
running at over 10% per year, has ground to a halt in recent months,
causing concern among economic analysts and the general public, and
forcing cuts in the state budget. The previously booming real
estate sector has been particularly hard hit. In addition,
double-digit inflation, currently around 11 percent per year,
continues to place pressure on Estonian households. Unless the
economy quickly recovers, ongoing labor shortages could ease.
Nevertheless, Estonia faces long-term labor shortages as a result of
declining birth rates, outsourcing of Estonia's labor-pool to other
parts of the EU, and general resistance to immigration as a means to
fill labor gaps. Unemployment for calendar year 2007 was estimated
at 5.2 percent nationally, but varied considerably from region to
region, with higher unemployment notable in the Russian-speaking
northeastern parts of the country. In most Estonian families, both
husband and wife are employed.
A large Russian-speaking minority (more than one quarter of the
population) resides in Estonia, concentrated primarily in the
northeast of the country (including the city of Narva), as well as
larger population centers such as Tallinn and, to a lesser extent,
Tartu. Significant divisions between the Russian-speaking minority
and the Estonian majority remain, as evidenced by the disturbances
that followed the GoE's decision to relocate a Soviet-era, World War
II Memorial in April 2007 (reftel A). Public and GOE discussion of
integration issues increased significantly immediately following the
riots, leading the GoE to modify its 5-year integration strategy,
approved in April 2008.
Presently, over 100,000 persons in Estonia are considered stateless
and travel on Estonian-issued "alien passports," also known as gray
passports, which accord some travel privileges to EU and Schengen
countries but not the same as those guaranteed to Estonian
passports. The number of stateless persons is decreasing steadily,
although a new regulation in Russian law, allowing stateless
passport holders from Estonia to travel visa-free to Russia, may
slow this process. The Estonian government has made certain changes
to its naturalization exam in order to respond to criticism that the
test is too difficult.
Although a considerable number of persons living in Estonia carry
Russian or gray (stateless alien) passports, Estonian passport
holders continue to make up a disproportionate number of Post's NIV
applicants. For the period covered by this report (March - August
2008), 92.6 percent of Posts' NIV applicants held Estonian
passports, 2.4 percent stateless alien passports, 3.5 percent
Russian passports, and 1.5 percent passports from some other
country. Estonia has issued machine-readable passports since
February 2002, a photo-digitized since May 2005 and an E-passport
with biometric data chip since May 2007. Alien passports are made
to the same standard as the Estonian citizen passports.
The volume of Estonian travel to the United States is relatively
low, due largely to the country's small population, and the
relatively small Estonian-American population in the United States.
Moreover, no direct, commercial flights exist between Estonia and
the United States. A weaker dollar, however, has made travel to the
U.S. more attractive and affordable for Estonians. In addition, an
Estonian travel agency took advantage of a temporary glitch in the
worldwide airline reservation system in late August 2008 to offer
round-trip flights to the United States (including multiple stops in
the U.S.) for the equivalent of only $400, resulting in a surge of
travel bookings for late 2007 and early 2008.
Russian and Estonian organized crime groups exist in Estonia and
members sometimes seek U.S. visas.
(SBU) NB: As of March 30, 2008 Estonia is a fully integrated member
of the Schengen area. The transition has passed smoothly, though
some worry that a lack of human capital in the Border services will
undermine the country's ability to police its borders. GoE
officials, however, express confidence that Estonia retains
satisfactory control in tracking of mala fide travelers who enter
Estonia from other Schengen countries.
2. NIV FRAUD: No significant changes from the previous fraud
summary. Post continues to verify suspicious applicant-provided
information using various online resources, including but not
limited to Lexis-Nexis, CCD, and Estonian search mechanisms to
verify personal, financial and business information. While no
significant NIV fraud was detected, Post has encountered a handful
of applicants trying to enter under false pretenses by using
illegitimate contact data.
TALLINN 00000348 002 OF 002
Consular Section FSNs regularly review local newspapers to seek
names of persons in Estonia involved in crime, so that lookouts can
be entered into CLASS. These efforts regularly pay off. For
example, information entered in 1998 based on a newspaper article
listing a number of Estonians arrested for drug trafficking bore
fruit when one of the individuals recently applied for a visa. The
applicant insisted that he had no criminal past, until he was
confronted with the newspaper article.
3. IV FRAUD: To date, no fraud has been detected among IV applicants
in Tallinn. Post began full IV and DV processing in May 2007.
4. DV FRAUD: See above regarding IV fraud.
5. ACS AND PASSPORT FRAUD: None detected since previous fraud
6. ADOPTION: No change from previous fraud summary.
7. ASYLUM AND OTHER DHS FRAUD: No changes from previous fraud
8. COOPERATION WITH HOST GOVERNMENT AUTHORITIES: Host country
security services continue to provide information about persons and
businesses with potentially criminal elements. Post continues to
see NIV applicants whose potential ineligibilities would not be
uncovered without this ongoing information sharing. Additionally,
the GoE continues to feed data into Post's fully automated reporting
of Estonian lost and stolen passports (reftel B).
(SBU): Estonia continues its drive to enter the Visa Waiver Program
(VWP). Estonia has taken all substantive steps for inclusion in the
program, including the sharing of lost/stolen passport information
(see reftel B), as well as the signing of agreements relating to
sharing of information on potential terrorists and criminal
activity. Post is preparing outreach activities in advance of a
possible announcement of Estonia's formal participation in the VWP.
A Department of Homeland Security team visited to Estonia in 2008 as
part of the negotiations process to review, among other things,
border and airport security. Upon leaving, team members expressed a
favorable view of its findings regarding Estonia's customs and
9. AREAS OF PARTICULAR CONCERN: With Estonia now part of the
Schengen zone, there is concern that illegal immigration into
Estonia may increase as the country provides a gateway to onward
passport-free travel to other parts of the EU. There is also
concern that Third country nationals will try to use fraudulent
Estonian travel documents to enter other Schengen countries,
although there has been no evidence of this to date.
10. STAFFING AND TRAINING: The Consular Section consists of two
officers and two FSNs. The Section is currently seeking to fill a
vacancy for a Consular Assistant. Everyone assists with fraud
prevention work. Both officers have completed PC-541 Fraud
Prevention for Consular Managers. The Visa Assistant has recently
completed PC-542 FSN Fraud Prevention.