Cablegate: Semi-Annual Fraud Summary - Dakar
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHDK #1238/01 2731139
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 301139Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY DAKAR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3131
INFO RUEHPNH/NVC PORTSMOUTH 0935
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 DAKAR 001238
DEPT FOR CA/FPP
PARIS FOR DHS/ICE
DEPT FOR KCC WILLIAMSBURG KY
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CVIS KFRD CPAS CMGT ASEC SG
SUBJECT: SEMI-ANNUAL FRAUD SUMMARY - DAKAR
REF: A) 08 STATE 74840; B) DAKAR 388
1. The following is Embassy Dakar's semi-annual fraud reporting
cable covering the period of March 1, 2009 to August 31, 2009.
Responses are keyed to Ref A.
2. A. COUNTRY CONDITIONS: Senegal is a secular republic with a
strong presidency, weak legislature, a compliant judiciary, and
multiple weak political parties. The country is predominantly rural
with limited natural resources. Between 60 and 70 percent of the
Senegalese workforce relies on agriculture, either directly or
indirectly, to earn a living. In 2008, Senegal's growth rate fell
from 4.8 percent to an estimated 2.5 percent, despite a good
agricultural harvest. The economy is highly vulnerable to
variations in rainfall and fluctuations in world commodity prices.
As a result, increasing numbers of young Senegalese are moving to
the cities to seek employment. With a 45 percent unemployment rate
(and a very high underemployment rate), many Senegalese seek work
opportunities in the U.S. and Europe. In 2007, over 30,000 Africans
- including many Senegalese - attempted to migrate to Europe via
clandestine fishing boats bound for Spain's Canary Islands.
Senegalese officials are addressing a difficult build-up of arrears
owed to the private sector, which has contributed to the economy's
slowdown, and likely even higher unemployment.
The global economic crisis has begun to negatively impact Senegal as
the cost for government and private financing has increased. There
are also strong indications that formal and informal remittances
from Senegalese living and working overseas have begun to decrease.
Since a single Senegalese worker in Europe or the U.S. can provide
significant disposable income for an extended family, or even a
small village, such a downturn could have very direct and negative
impacts on poverty levels. There is growing concern that high
volumes of illegal narcotics are transiting through West Africa, in
all likelihood including Senegal. This dynamic also raises concerns
about increasing levels and sophistication of corruption, money
laundering, and other financial crimes which could exacerbate
consular-related fraud in the region.
Dakar is a high fraud post. Senegal serves as a regional airline
hub for West Africa, has daily direct flights to New York,
Washington, and Atlanta, and is used by many West Africans to
transit to the U.S. It is relatively easy to obtain fraudulent
civil documents, such as false birth and marriage certificates, not
only in Senegal but also in neighboring countries. Senegalese and
other nationalities are also able to obtain genuine documents,
including Senegalese passports, using false identities. Imposters
with authentic travel documents are a recurring problem.
In general, Senegalese place a high value on extended kinship
networks. Affluent family members are expected to share their
wealth, influence, and opportunities with all those who ask. Many
Senegalese, including wealthy ones, view travel to the U.S. as an
opportunity to earn money to send home and/or obtain free medical
care. The obligation to family and friends typically trumps all
other obligations in the Senegalese value system. Many Senegalese
genuinely believe that developed countries should (or even have an
obligation to) accept more immigrants from Africa because of
poverty. Moreover, they do not believe that immigration from Africa
causes any harm to developing countries. As a result, many
Senegalese see nothing wrong with submitting a fraudulent visa
application or with assisting a family member or friend with a
B. NONIMMIGRANT (NIV) FRAUD: The most common type of NIV fraud
involves applicants submitting fraudulent documents as part of their
B1/B2 visa applications. These documents include false bank
statements, invitation letters, employment letters, hotel
reservations, and passport stamps. The quality of the fraudulent
documents is generally poor and, therefore, relatively easy to
detect. Mala fide applicants often submit similar, recognizable
packets of false documents, leading Post to conclude that brokers
are selling the documents to visa applicants. Consular officers
routinely refuse these cases under INA section 214(b) rather than
refer them to the Fraud Prevention Unit (FPU).
NIV applicants use two primary tactics to hide past overstays in the
U.S.: claiming to have lost the passport last used to travel; and
obtaining genuine, but backdated Senegalese immigration entry and
exit stamps. As a result, adjudicating officers must carefully
scrutinize applicants with previously issued NIVs. Applicants often
present passports with fake entry and exit stamps from Dubai,
Morocco, Senegal, and China. Access to ADIS has dramatically
improved Post's ability to detect overstays.
Post receives very few H1B applications and thus encounters little
fraud in this area.
DAKAR 00001238 002 OF 004
C. IMMIGRANT VISA (IV) FRAUD: Post processes IVs and Fiance Visas
(K1 Visas) for the following countries: The Gambia, Guinea,
Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, and Senegal. Prior to May 2009,
Post also processed IVs for residents of Sierra Leone; Embassy
Freetown assumed processing of these cases during this reporting
period. Post processes Asylee/Refugee Following-to-Join family
members (V92/93) for residents of Senegal and Guinea-Bissau.
Adjudicating officers refer approximately 30 percent of these
applications to the FPU. Of the cases referred to the FPU,
approximately 40 percent involve fraud.
Relationship fraud is rampant in IV and K1 applications. In all
seven countries listed above, applicants can easily obtain genuine
civil documents with false information and so DNA testing is often
the only means to confirm a biological relationship. DNA testing is
used most often in IR2 or V92/93 cases, less so in IR5 cases.
In addition, FPU has been particularly successful this year using a
combination of CCD, LexisNexis, and Social Security records to
reveal fraud connecting seemingly unrelated cases.
Some CR1 and K1 applicants attempt to hide previous marriages to
someone other than the petitioner, either by representing themselves
as single or by producing false divorce certificates. Fraud by
applicants claiming to be single can sometimes be detected when a
spouse is indicated in a previous NIV application or passport
application in PIERS. Those with false divorce documents often fail
to terminate a marriage with an African spouse before petitioning
for entry based on a relationship with an American spouse or fiance.
This is particularly problematic in this region, where polygamous
marriages are common.
Post rarely sees fraud by applicants for employment-based IVs.
Though Post does not routinely question the petitioner's legal
status in V92/V93 cases, during this reporting period Post sent two
V92 files to the DHS Fraud Office with the recommendation that the
petitioner's asylum status be re-examined. During the V92 interview
process Post found significant evidence which contradicted the
During the reporting period, Post returned 76 petitions to USCIS
with the recommendation that they be revoked.
D. DV FRAUD: DV applicants frequently present forged high school
degrees or, less frequently, falsified work records to qualify for
DV status. Because the issuance of Baccalaureate (college entrance
exam) certificates is strictly controlled in Senegal, the majority
of forged and counterfeit documents are easily detected.
Although in the past, it has been difficult to verify WAEC (West
African Examinations Council) diplomas in The Gambia, with the help
of Embassy Banjul, Post has had greater success in identifying
fraudulent Gambian DV claims.
Educational documents in Guinea are all certified by a single person
at the Ministry of Education, which makes these documents
particularly vulnerable to fraud. With the help of Embassy Conakry,
Post has had success submitting "blind verifications" of these
documents to the Ministry for authentication.
Post also receives numerous DV cases in which the applicant marries
immediately after being notified of winning the lottery; Post
scrutinizes these alleged relationships closely. In many of these
"pop-up" spouse cases, the principal applicant applies alone,
presumably attempting to defer scrutiny of the marriage until later
in the DV season, after his or her visa is approved. Post generally
defers issuance to the principal applicant until the spouse appears
for an interview.
E. ACS AND PASSPORT FRAUD: While Post has experienced little
evidence of fraud over the past six months in CRBA or passport
applications, we do require DNA exams in a high percentage of our
first-time, overseas birth cases.
F. ADOPTION FRAUD: Post processes orphan adoption cases from six
West African countries, having returned Sierra Leone cases - our
most numerous - to Freetown in May 2009. Post adjudicates a fair
number of orphan adoptions from Gambia, and in most confirms the
facts of the case via a field investigation conducted by Embassy
Post continues to experience a high rate of IR-2 adoption fraud. In
many West African cultures, families will take in and raise the
children of their relatives, without undertaking a formal adoption.
When the opportunity to immigrate arises later in life, they often
attempt to document their extended relatives with fraudulent
DAKAR 00001238 003 OF 004
G. USE OF DNA TESTING: Post uses DNA testing most frequently in
IR2, family preference IVs, V92s, and CRBA cases. Post also
receives many DNA tests conducted prior to interview, often at the
recommendation of USCIS. Post is forced to discount the majority of
these tests, given a lack of satisfactory evidence of
H. ASYLUM AND OTHER DHS BENEFITS FRAUD: Most of post's V92/93
cases involve applicants from Mauritania, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.
Relationship fraud is rampant and DNA is often requested to confirm
the relationship. These cases are vulnerable to age fraud
(representing an adult as a child under 21), due to the applicants'
inability, at times, to acquire either birth certificates or
passports in their country of origin.
Embassy Dakar sees a steady stream of applicants who claim to have
lost their I-551s (Green Cards). Many of these cases involve
applicants who have abandoned their legal permanent residence status
by remaining outside of the U.S. for more than one year.
When airport security suspects a passenger of document-related
fraud, they will deny boarding and report the incident to the
consular section. These passengers then appear at Post to request
that the Embassy authenticate their refugee travel documents or
Post makes use of both ADIS and the DHS Forensic Documents
Laboratory to request application images with which to verify
documents and also to determine whether green card holders have
departed the U.S. within the past year.
I. ALIEN SMUGGLING, TRAFFICKING, ORGANIZED CRIME, TERRORIST TRAVEL:
Post has seen little hard evidence of alien smuggling or
trafficking among visa applicants. While there are terrorist groups
and organized crime in the region, this does not appear to affect
our consular operations.
J. DS CRIMINAL FRAUD INVESTIGATIONS: The Consular Section and RSO
cooperate actively in fraud cases involving citizenship claims and
other criminal issues. The two offices exchange fraud-related
information on a regular basis, taking advantage of each other's
unique contacts and database access.
During this reporting period the RSO and Consular Office continued
to follow the case an American citizen arrested in Dakar for
attempting to smuggle aliens into the U.S. (Ref B). The American
was sentenced to, and served, six months in Senegalese prison before
being released in early September.
K. HOST COUNTRY PASSPORT, IDENTITY DOCUMENTS, AND CIVIL REGISTRY:
Senegal issues four types of passports: regular, diplomatic and
official (passeport de service), and a special passport that is used
exclusively for the Hajj (passeport pour le pelerinage). There are
at least two iterations of each passport that are currently valid
and in circulation. Regular, diplomatic, and official passports all
contain 32 pages and an image of the Senegalese seal that is only
visible under ultraviolet light. All passports have separate book
numbers and passport numbers. In addition, at the end of December
2007, Senegalese authorities began issuing regular passports
containing an electronic chip.
Diplomatic and official passports are often issued to non-diplomats
and non-official travelers, such as prominent business owners and
their families and religious leaders. Post carefully interviews
B1/B2 applicants holding these types of passports to determine visa
L. COOPERATION WITH HOST GOVERNMENT AUTHORITIES: The host
government in Senegal cooperates well in fraud matters and requests
for document verifications. Nevertheless, because of the high
incidence of fraud, post always submits "blind" verification
requests, providing authorities with only a minimum of data on the
document and requesting that the authorities provide the rest.
In Senegal, not all forms of visa fraud are regarded as serious
offenses and even government officials are at times willing to use
their positions to help friends and relatives obtain visas. While
the GOS does prosecute serious perpetrators, particularly foreign
scam artists, it will often drop criminal charges if the perpetrator
pays restitution to his/her victims.
M. AREAS OF PARTICULAR CONCERN: K1, CR1, and IR1 visa fraud are
very common in Senegal. Almost 80 percent of K1 applicants are
referred to the FPU for investigation and approximately 30 percent
are returned to the Department of Homeland Security with a
recommendation for revocation. Advance fee fraud and dating scams
are common in Senegal and Post regularly receives emails or calls
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from Amcits who have fallen victim to the scam.
N. STAFFING AND TRAINING:
1) Matilda Gawf, Vice-Consul, part-time Fraud Prevention Manager
(FPM). No formal fraud prevention training.
2) Consular Associate, Eric Redd (FPC) arrived December 2008. No
formal fraud prevention training.
3) Moussa Sy, Locally Engaged Staff, part-time Local Fraud
Investigator. Attended FSI fraud training in Fall 2007.