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Cablegate: Fraud Summary - Freetown

VZCZCXRO9847
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHFN #0391/01 2750809
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 020809Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY FREETOWN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2904
RUEHPNH/NVC PORTSMOUTH NH 0001
RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 0526
RUEHFT/AMCONSUL FRANKFURT 1547
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 FREETOWN 000391

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR CA/FPP, CA/VO/KCC
ACCRA FOR DHS
FRANKFURT FOR RCO

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

Ref: 08 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.
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,
the FPU confirms that over half of NIV cases referred to it are
fraudulent. B visas constitute eighty-four percent of all
applications. Of the rest, only A, F, and G visas 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. Post has
received both unauthorized and fraudulent Notes Verbale supporting
official and non-official visa applications. There were also
instances of official visa applications, supported by the GoSL,
which turned out to be for non-government employees. Additionally,
student visa applicants can rarely explain their rationale in
selecting a university. They usually select a bottom-tier school
nearby family, suggesting intent to immigrate.

At least once a month, IDENT or FR hits uncover an applicant with a
second identity.

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

3. Embassy Sierra Leone resumed Immigrant Visa processing on May 4,
2009, concluding a twelve-year hiatus. Embassy Dakar processed
these applications during the interim. Aside from a few SIVs for
USG employees, all IVs are family-based. Applicants often know
little to nothing about their petitioning relatives, and petitioning
spouses often came to the U.S. as the result of a marriage that
coincidentally dissolved around the time of naturalization. Post
hears many anecdotes and the occasional poison pen letter about
various schemes to import family members to the U.S. on fraudulent
petitions. Post is still developing reliable methods to uncover and
prove this type of fraud in individual cases.

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

4. Embassy Freetown began processing DVs just before the beginning
of this reporting period; previously, Embassy Abidjan adjudicated
these cases. DV fraud is pervasive.

Nearly all applicants enter through a third party, often an agent
who goes door-to-door or around college campuses with a camera.
Typically, the agent's entry includes a distorted or blurry photo,
data entry errors, and no family members. When the agent receives
the selectee package, he holds it hostage from the principal
applicant until the applicant either pays a fee up to USD 1,500 or
marries a spouse of the agent's choice; that pop-up spouse will then
be responsible for all fees to the agent and embassy. Some
applicants may choose their own pop-up spouse, who may be a
pre-existing spouse or other family member, or a stranger who offers
enough money to offset the agent's fee.

A study of June 2009 cases revealed that 87% of spouses were pop-ups
and 72% of all cases had pop-up spouses, in fact. This is an annual
rate of 237 per thousand people.

On the whole, applicants present fraudulent educational documents,

FREETOWN 00000391 002 OF 004


and - less frequently - employment documents. Some documents are
poor enough that the officer can refuse the applicant at the window.
However, many are real documents pertaining to another individual
of the same name. Though the West African Examinations Council
(WAEC) has dates of birth in its records, the sole WAEC verifying
officer claims not to have access to this information, which would
easily confirm fraud in many cases. Post is concerned that she may
be the one providing many of these results to DV applicants.

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

5. Post has experienced little evidence of fraud over the past six
months in ACS, but recommends DNA testing for many Consular Report
of Birth Abroad (CRBA) applications.


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

6. Sierra Leone has traditionally been a high fraud adoption post
due to corruption, ignorance, and ineptitude at all stages of the
local adoption process. However, GoSL suspended processing of all
adoptions shortly after post started processing IVs, so there is
little to report this period. This suspension will continue until
the GoSL enacts a reformed adoption law. Post is closely monitoring
the progress of the GoSL reform process, with a view to the
integrity of its final disposition.

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

7. Due to CRBA cases often coming from non-traditional family
situations and unreliable birth certificates, post recommends DNA
testing in about 70% of cases. Historically, in about 15-20% of
those, the blood relationship is disproved, and in about 10% of
cases, applicants abandon the application after DNA testing was
recommended. Post recommends DNA fairly often in IR-2 and IR-5
cases. Early information shows IR-5 cases are more likely to show
probably paternity/maternity than IR-2 cases.

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

8. Embassy Conakry processes V92 and V93. Embassy Freetown
receives many requests for transportation letters from LPRs who have
lost or stolen I-551s. Airline security denied boarding to several
imposters using other persons' I-551s.

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

9. Post knows of no trafficking, organized crime, or terrorist
travel related to consular operations. Alien smuggling is confined
to illegal immigration purposes. Naturalized U.S. Citizens may
marry their siblings or cousins, or arrange with another U.S.
citizen to marry each other's relatives to avoid even the
possibility of DNA testing. Alien smugglers also include DV fixers,
and post is working to uncover their identities and locations.

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

10. RSO has taken a more active role in consular issues during this
reporting period. Foremost was the successful investigation of LES
malfeasance. RSO is also assisting in uncovering visa fraud fixer
rings, the source of fraudulent documents and other instances of
misrepresentation. There is no formal referral system, but the RSO
and Fraud Prevention Manager (FPM) maintain a collaborative
relationship.

--------------------------------------------- --------
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 became obsolete in
2002. In theory, applicants must for an interview and present a
birth certificate and national ID card. However, the Immigration

FREETOWN 00000391 003 OF 004


Office does not enforce or verify these requirements. There are
three passports, distinguished by the prefix of the passport number:
ordinary ("O"), service ("S"), and diplomatic ("D"). "Service" or
"Diplomatic" also appears on the front cover. 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
-- Hidden passport number on page 1 (ordinary 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: GoSL started production of a new National ID card during
the reporting period, following a 5-year break. The format appears
quite secure, with several overt security features and a 2D
barcode.

BIRTH AND DEATH CERTIFICATES: The Registrar of Births and Deaths
does little verification of information reported for certificates,
so real documents with false information are easily available.
There are three types of first-time birth certificates, 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 are available. These are transcriptions of
the record, not facsimiles of the original. The clerks often issue
delayed certificates instead of certified copies to avoid searching
records for the original. The registrar fills the data in
handwriting, and then stamps and signs. There was an instance where
the father listed on the birth certificate was in fact a stepfather.


Births are often unregistered, particularly outside of medical
centers. Many rural records were destroyed during the war. To
remedy this, there was a free mass registration of minors on June 20
and 21, 2003. All birth certificates issued then have the prefix
"DAC." DAC registrations are especially prone to fraud.

One must apply for a death certificates within fourteen days of the
death so that the Registrar can then issue a burial permit.

MARRIAGE AND DIVORCE CERTIFICATES: Marriage certificates can be
civil, Christian, Muslim, or traditional. Local law requires
registration of all marriages, but the procedures for registration
of traditional marriages with local councils are new and rarely
followed. It is easy to obtain a real marriage certificate for a
sham marriage, particularly with certain suspect mosques and
churches. Accordingly, imams and pastors will often attest to the
authenticity of the marriage certificate, for a fee.

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

12. Post has interacted with host government authorities on a
limited basis on fraud matters. Post verifies documents with the
Administrator and Registrar-General, Births & Deaths Office, WAEC,
and the High Court. Verification can be slow, particularly at the
High Court. Upon notification by the Embassy of visa related fraud,
the Sierra Leone Police arrested two subjects related matters during
the reporting period, but failed to secure convictions. The
judicial system is largely corrupt and inefficient.

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

13. Post will conduct substantial outreach in an effort to have DV
applicants enter themselves rather than use agents. Since taking up
IV and DV duties, the part-time FPM has insufficient time to
supervise the FPU, a problem highlighted by the LES malfeasance. To
remedy this problem, post intends to request a consular EFM position
this year.

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

FREETOWN 00000391 004 OF 004

14.

A) Vice Consul, part-time FPM, no formal training, also manages the
IV/DV unit, and provides all categories of consular services.

B) LES Fraud Prevention Assistant, also handles federal benefits,
has taken the FSN Fraud Prevention Workshop (PC542) at FSI and
Detecting Fraudulent Documents (PC544) online.

C) Vacant LES Fraud Prevention Assistant position, which will be
filled shortly.

FEDZER

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