Cablegate: Fraud Summary - Zimbabwe
DE RUEHSB #0780/01 2741249
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 011249Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY HARARE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4968
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
RUEHPNH/NVC PORTSMOUTH 0161
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 HARARE 000780
CA/FPP FOR M. LEDESMA-LEESE
CA/EX FOR R. BOETTCHER
DHS FOR CIS/FDNS
DEPT PLEASE PASS TO KCC
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KFRD CVIS CPAS CMGT ASEC ZI
SUBJECT: FRAUD SUMMARY - ZIMBABWE
REF: A. STATE 57623
B. STATE 97431
1. COUNTRY CONDITIONS: One year after the signing of the Global
Political Agreement (GPA) that led to the February 2009 formation of
a new unity government, tension remains between and within
Zimbabwe's major political parties. Several issues remain
unresolved, to include the restoration of basic human rights,
respect for the rule of law, and the ability of the government to
feed its people. Within the new government, leaders of the Movement
for Democratic Change (MDC) claim the inclusive government is living
up to its promise, while blaming leaders of the Zimbabwe African
National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) for lack of progress in
restoring human rights and rule of law. Conversely, ZANU-PF blames
the MDC for not pressuring the U.S. and EU to lift sanctions.
2. Against this backdrop, corruption flourishes within the
Zimbabwean civil service, resulting in a near total collapse of
government controls over passports and official documents. Civil
servants receive roughly USD 150 per month, making them vulnerable
to bribes and kickbacks for basic subsistence. As a result,
document vendors flourish, and post has seen a sharp increase in the
number of fraudulent civil documents produced from official blanks.
In addition, the dollarization of the economy has resulted in a rash
of counterfeit U.S. dollars entering circulation. In a new trend
seen this reporting period, post has seen questionable student
examination results, strongly suggesting corruption within the
Zimbabwean Schools Examination Council (ZIMSEC).
3. NIV FRAUD: Student visa applications accounted for
approximately 15 percent of our NIV workload this half, with line
officers increasingly encountering fraudulent educational records or
financial documents. In spite of our strained diplomatic relations
at the ministerial level, our FPU has enjoyed a good working
relationship with the Zimbabwean Schools Examination Council
(ZIMSEC), which has been very responsive in verifying transcripts
and education levels. However, within the past few months we have
noted a disturbing trend involving fraudulent original O and A level
testing reports. Previously, the consular section had only seen
amateurish attempts to produce fraudulent school certificates but
never witnessed the presentation of fake certified copies of the
test reports given by ZIMSEC. The excellent document quality for
these fake test reports suggests that a high level staff member at
ZIMSEC has been involved in selling these reports. This new fraud
trend was only detected because an applicant who presented one of
these fraudulent test reports had also applied for a student visa in
2008 and the consular officer doubted that her A Level results would
have improved so dramatically in one year. Because we now believe
that ZIMSEC has been compromised, we have begun verifying A and O
Level test results and certificates with the schools the applicants
attended. Although this independent check will require additional
effort from our FPU, we believe it is necessary in cases where the
applicants have yet to receive their O and A Level Certificates.
(Note: Zimbabwe students normally sit for exams in June and
November. Results are typically delivered in three months, but
actual certificates are taking in excess of six months. End Note.)
4. Perhaps motivated by the formation of the inclusive government,
we have seen a dramatic increase in NIV applications by applicants
Qwe have seen a dramatic increase in NIV applications by applicants
who are on the OFAC sanctions list. We have sent SAOs in all of
these cases. The Department has confirmed 212 (f) ineligibilities
in 18 cases and a remaining 6 cases are still pending Department
approval. (When told they were ineligible to travel to the U.S.,
many applicants have argued that there should no longer be a
sanctions list since there is now an inclusive government.)
5. Approximately 10 percent of all NIV interviews are translated
from either Ndebele or Shona by members of our local staff.
Recently, during one of these translated interviews, we had an
applicant ask an interpreter for "help" in getting them a visa. The
staff member immediately informed the consular officer and the
consular officer switched staff members. As part of our management
controls, we randomly select staff members for translation duties
and conduct these interviews in front of the other local staff to
ensure the veracity of the translation services being provided.
6. IV FRAUD: During this quarter, two IV cases were sent for
revocation because the consular officer discovered that there was no
qualifying relationship between the petitioner and beneficiary at
the time the petition was filed. In both cases, the divorce decree
which was submitted as proof of the termination of the biological
mother's marriage to the beneficiary's biological father were
determined to be fraudulent documents. This was determined by the
High Court of Zimbabwe, which allegedly issued the divorce decrees.
Additionally, in one of the cases, a Lexis-Nexis check revealed that
the petitioner, who is the step-father of the beneficiary, had
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divorced the beneficiary's biological mother on August 19, 2008 -- a
year prior to the beneficiary's interview.
7. DV FRAUD: Instances of DV fraud are rare in Harare and there
was only one case during this period. It involved an applicant
submitting false O Level certificates to demonstrate that she met
the Diversity Visa requirement of having attained the equivalent of
a high school diploma. After being confronted by the consular
officer with an email from ZIMSEC stating that the certificates were
fraudulent, the applicant admitted to buying the certificates from a
local document vendor for approx USD 150. The applicant admitted
that more was to be paid if she had received her visa.
8. ACS AND PASSPORT FRAUD: DNA testing continues to be one of our
most important verification tools in adjudicating questionable
claims to citizenship. During this period, we had four cases
referred to the FPU for citizenship verification. All of the cases
began as applications for Consular Reports of Birth Abroad (CRBA)
submitted at post for babies born in Zimbabwe. In all of the cases
we were able to confirm the father's U.S. citizenship. However, all
the children were born out of wedlock, and in three of the four
cases the parents did not live together. Unable to reconcile or
verify the dates of conception with the dates of birth, we requested
DNA confirmation of parentage in all four cases. To date we have
been able to confirm the biological relationship in two cases, with
two cases still pending.
9. We had one false claim to citizenship during this reporting
period. A young man of 14 showed up at post claiming to be an
American citizen. He based his story on a photograph of a white
man, who he said had traveled with him from the U.S. to France,
Tanzania, Zambia and finally Zimbabwe. There were a number of fraud
indicators in the case including: lack of documentary evidence to
support the citizenship claim, no identification documents from the
applicant, a strong foreign accent by the applicant, and no social
security number. With the help of a local NGO who provided
counselors and psychologists to speak with the young man, it was
established that the applicant was most likely an illegal immigrant
from Ethiopia who was falsely claiming American citizenship.
10. In another example of how it pays dividends to judiciously use
limited validity passports in cases of questionable reports of
lost/stolen passports, an American who reported a second lost/stolen
passport returned with the first passport that he had reported
stolen the year before. The American now demanded that we issue a
full validity passport since he could account for the previously
"stolen passport." After running a routine name check on the
American citizen, we discovered that he had an outstanding U.S.
Marshall's warrant, which had not appeared during the name check the
year prior. Working closely with the Regional Security Office, we
cancelled the American's valid passport and issued him a limited
validity passport for direct return to the U.S. only. The Regional
Security Office escorted the American to the airport and notified
the police in Denver that he was returning to the United States.
The American was picked up at the airport on arrival and arrested
11. We have had one instance of passport mutilation during this
quarter. It involved a 20-year-old American citizen who had altered
the year of birth on his passport from 1989 to 1981 in order to gain
Qthe year of birth on his passport from 1989 to 1981 in order to gain
access to the university campus bar. We cancelled the passport and
recommended issuance of a limited validity passport.
12. ADOPTION FRAUD: None this reporting period.
13. USE OF DNA TESTING: Per Ref B, post has established DNA sample
kits a controlled item with the ACO responsible for the chain of
custody. In addition, all tests (swabs) will now be conducted at
the consular section, vice the panel physician's office.
14. Post uses DNA testing as a means of last resort to confirm
biological relationships. Upon identification of fraud indicators
that cause the adjudication officer to suspect the relationship, the
case is referred to the FPU, applicants are asked to submit
supplemental evidence, and civil documents are sent for
verification. Only after investigation by the FPU, are applicants
recommended for DNA testing as a means to confirm the alleged
relationship. Post's FPU witnessed 14 DNA tests this half. 13
Results confirmed the relationship, with 1 still outstanding.
15. ASYLUM AND OTHER DHS BENEFITS FRAUD: The country's political
turmoil and human rights abuses have resulted in a quantum leap in
our V92/93 cases. In the last six months, we have received an
additional 14 cases, processed to completion eight, leaving us with
a backlog of 96. Many of these cases have multiple fraud
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indicators, and will require considerable time by our FPU to
investigate. After consulting with our Regional Consular Officer,
we issued termination notices for all cases that have languished
beyond 180 days, followed by petition return for those without a
positive response. So far, we have sent nine cases for revocation
based solely on the fact that nothing has occurred in the case for
more than 200 days.
16. The Consular Section has noticed an increase in the approval of
questionable asylum petitions, including one recently filed by an
asylee whose husband still works for the Government of Zimbabwe and
has adamantly rejected any opportunity to follow his wife to the
states. Because of this, we would ask the Department's help in
communicating to DHS a better set of criteria for adjudicating these
types of claims. Specifically, the consular section suggests that
approved petitions have at least a plurality of the criteria set
A. Applicants can provide specific dates of torture and abuse and
can explain who tortured them and how. In the questionable cases, we
have seen applicants merely state, "In June 2001 I was tortured."
Some torture techniques, such as falanga (beating on the soles of
the feet) and beating on the back or buttocks with logs or sticks,
are particularly common. During election periods, torture is often
perpetrated by ZANU-PF youths at so-called "bases" in rural areas.
B. Many victims of State-sponsored persecution have had their
houses burned or destroyed.
C. Victims should be able to articulate their role and
responsibilities in MDC or related organization.
D. Victims of torture have frequently been so severely beaten that
they required hospitalization or would have scars from the torture
they experienced. Falanga injuries are often not visible, but can
be detected with x-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
E. The consular section and the Human Rights officer have witnessed
a concerted effort by the Government of Zimbabwe to also assault the
family members of those involved in supporting the opposition
movement. Also, sexual assault amongst female relatives was very
high, particularly after a husband or son had already sought
F. Generally, those suffering from political persecution did not
buy plane tickets to the U.S. in Zimbabwe because they were afraid
the Central Intelligence Office (CIO) would find out.
G. Credible victims of political persecution are normally able to
provide specific examples of how their political membership or
activism had been documented by CIO, i.e. "I attended this rally on
such and such a date where I was arrested."
H. Many threatened people told their families beforehand that they
were leaving and seeking asylum in the U.S.
17. ALIEN SMUGGLING, TRAFFICKING, ORGANIZED CRIME, TERRORIST TRAVEL:
Nothing to report.
18. DS CRIMINAL FRAUD INVESTIGATIONS: Post's consular section and
the RSO have been cooperating with a DS Washington Field Office
investigation involving a Zimbabwe family issued A1 visas on 13
19. HOST COUNTRY PASSPORT, IDENTITY DOCUMENTS, and CIVIL REGISTRY:
As previously reported, corruption has become endemic within the
Zimbabwean civil service, resulting in a near total collapse of
government controls over passports and official documents. Document
vendors have access to official "blanks" and absent verification,
post has no confidence in Zimbabwean civil documents filed or
Qpost has no confidence in Zimbabwean civil documents filed or
printed within the past three years.
20. COOPERATION WITH HOST GOVERNMENT AUTHORITIES: On a working
level, we have strong and effective relationships with all the
document registries and with the government printing office.
21. AREA OF PARTICULAR CONCERN: NIV petition-based applications,
student applications, IV step-parent petitions, asylum processing,
and counterfeit currency. Due to the banking situation in Zimbabwe,
all consular fees, including all MRV fees, are collected by the
consular cashier in cash, U.S. dollars only. In the past six months
we have discovered four counterfeit notes which have been turned over
to the Secret Service via the RSO.
22. STAFFING AND TRAINING: Post thanks CA/EX for funding advanced
consular training for vice consul Amy Diaz and IV training for LES
HARARE 00000780 004.4 OF 004
Lizzie Zambu. Both have returned to work re-energized and with new
ideas on how to streamline our processing.