Cablegate: Fraud Summary - Portugal
DE RUEHLI #0534/01 2821154
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 091154Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY LISBON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7910
RUEHPD/AMCONSUL PONTA DELGADA 0630
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 LISBON 000534
DEPT FOR CA/FPP
DHS FOR CIS/FDNS
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CMGT KFRD ASEC CVIS CPAS PO
SUBJECT: FRAUD SUMMARY - PORTUGAL
REF: (A) LISBON 000400 (B) LISBON 000239
a. COUNTRY CONDITIONS: Portugal has been a member of the European
Union since 1986 and a member of the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP)
since 1999. The country has a relatively homogeneous population of
10.7 million and one of the lowest crime rates in Western Europe.
Although Portugal had for centuries been a country of net
emigration, during the past twenty years emigration has slowed to a
trickle and the country instead has become a destination for
increasing numbers of immigrants from outside the European Union.
Traditionally boasting one of the lowest crime rates in Western
Europe, 2008 statistics show an increase in every significant
category across the criminal index. This trend has held steady
through both quarters of 2009. General crime increased by more than
seven percent while violent crime increased 10 percent with crime in
Lisbon alone accounting for 40 percent of the increase. Some
members of law enforcement attribute this to increased unemployment,
specifically among immigrants. Others cite the economic crisis in
general, and some believe that youth gangs in the larger cities are
simply becoming more brazen.
Approximately 100,000 foreign nationals are estimated to be residing
in Portugal illegally, in addition to the approximate 500,000 legal
residents. Immigration and visa- related fraud detected in Portugal
usually takes the form of attempts by foreign nationals--most
notably, persons from Brazil, Eastern European countries and former
Portuguese colonies in Africa--to enter Portugal surreptitiously or
to move from Portugal to more prosperous countries, both inside and
outside of the European Union. Recent statistics from the
Portuguese Immigration Service (Servico de Estrangeiros e
Frontieras) [SEF]) show that Brazilians, who do not need a visa to
enter Portugal, represent 71.5 percent of illegal residents in the
country. In terms of fraudulent documents, SEF's detection rates
were highest for nationals of Colombia, Senegal, Guinea Bissau, and
Venezuela, in that order.
b. NIV FRAUD: Portuguese nationals with machine readable passports
do not require visas for tourist or business travel to the U.S., as
they may travel under the VWP. Embassy Lisbon's average refusal rate
across all nationalities was 14.67 percent in FY 2009 and 13.20
percent since the last fraud cable. Consulate Ponta Delgada's
average refusal rate across all nationalities was 12.54 percent for
FY 2009 and 14.29 percent since the last reporting period.
Lisbon receives from DHS approximately 15 I-275's per month and
Ponta Delgada receives about three. Lisbon encounters approximately
three applicants per week who have been denied VWP entry by CBP
while Ponta Delgada sees about three per month. It is not lost on
either Post that these numbers strongly correlate with the number of
'turn arounds' at the borders. Of these applicants, we refuse about
two-thirds 214(b) after having confirmed suspicions of living and/or
working in the U.S. courtesy of the VWP. Lisbon and Ponta Delgada
see another 20 or so applicants a month who were not denied entry,
but who were advised upon departure to seek a visa for future travel
due to suspect travel patterns. Of these applicants, both Posts
estimate that 50 percent are refused 214 (b) with elderly Portuguese
nationals veritably living with children in the US making up the
bulk of the intending immigrants.
Post has detected no crew-related fraud since the implementation of
a fraud prevention process by which we confirm the employment of all
crew members directly with their employers. The process includes a
pre-screening of all shipping or transportation companies requesting
visas on behalf of their employees. Post maintains exemplars of all
letterhead and company-approved signatures against which the
confirmations are compared.
c. IV FRAUD: IV fraud is generally low in Portugal and demand for
immigrant visas is not great. Post sees quite a few third country
nationals, however, primarily applicants from the former Portuguese
colonies but increasingly also from Eastern Europe and from other
countries requiring clearance procedures. These cases require extra
vigilance in terms of the validity of documents with which we have
little or no familiarity. When in doubt, we often use CCD resources
or reach out to colleagues in relevant Posts. In some of the
family-based immigration claims, parents left behind small children
to be raised by relatives. This makes for scant evidence in terms
of photos, letters, or even memories to assist in determining the
bona fides of the relationship.
d. DV FRAUD: Post has not uncovered any fraud attempts related to
DV applications during this reporting period.
e. ACS AND PASSPORT FRAUD: Counterfeit U.S. passports are detected
in Portugal on occasion. No new incidents of ACS or passport fraud
were detected in the first half of 2009.
f. ADOPTION FRAUD: Post processes very few adoption cases and no
adoption-related fraud has been detected this reporting period.
g. USE OF DNA: In this quarter, Post has had three cases such as
those described under section c, in which the suggestion of DNA
testing seemed the best vehicle via which to draw a conclusion.
However the applicants did not decide how to proceed before the
release of STATE 097431. The new measures juxtaposed with the
relative infrequency of this issue here have raised a cost/benefit
question not yet fully addressed.
h. ASYLUM AND OTHER DHS BENEFITS FRAUD: Post processes only one or
two asylum cases per year, reflecting the small number of persons
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who attempt to claim asylum in Portugal (fewer than 100 per year.)
No new asylum cases were received during this period.
i. ALIEN SMUGGLING: Post is the official NIV application point for
Guinea Bissau and also often sees diplomatic visa requests from
other nations where document integrity is not reliable. Although
these cases occasionally take more time and attention, no 6E cases
have been confirmed this quarter.
SEF has recently increased efforts to uncover human smuggling rings
and punish perpetrators via increasingly-stiff penalties. The GOP
cooperates with other European Union countries in these pursuits.
REFTEL A details how local authorities recently dismantled a
Ukrainian fraud ring called "A Central." The group's main activity
was the smuggling of people from Eastern European countries, mainly
Ukraine, into Portugal, Spain and Italy. The ring produced
counterfeit documentation, provided false U.S. and international
driver's licenses and issued false labor contracts in the course of
their illicit activities. REFTEL A generated interest from the
Department of Justice, which requested more information in hopes of
catching up with facilitators in the U.S.
Just a few weeks later, GOP uncovered and prosecuted a Moldovan
fraud ring comprised of 13 Moldovans and one Portuguese citizen.
The resultant prison sentences ranged from five to 23 years.
j. DS CRIMINAL FRAUD INVESTIGATIONS: There are no current fraud
k. HOST COUNTRY PASSPORT, IDENTITY DOCUMENTS, AND CIVIL REGISTRY:
Portugal has made great strides in upgrading the security of its
identity documents over the past ten years. Portuguese passports
have had digital photos and machine-readable passports since January
1, 2001, leaving only another year of current passports susceptible
to photo-subbing. On August 26, 2006, the GOP began issuing
electronic chip passports.
Per REFTEL B, the GOP and the Australians have reported imposters
boarding flights with valid Portuguese passports. There have also
been reports of issues with altered Portuguese passports.
Additionally, mala fide travelers have presented altered Portuguese
residency cards although the GOP's upgrade in 2005 to plastic cards
with flush photos rather than paper cards with pasted photos has
greatly increased integrity of that document.
l. COOPERATION WITH HOST GOVERNMENT AUTHORITIES: Cooperation with
host government authorities remains excellent. The Government of
Portugal shares U.S. concerns about document fraud and is mindful of
the need to remain vigilant in this area, both to protect its
citizens and to preserve Portugal's highly-valued participation in
the Visa Waiver Program.
In June 2009 Secretary of State Clinton and the Portuguese Minister
of Foreign Affairs exchanged the instruments of ratification
concerning the U.S-Portugal Agreements on Extradition and Mutual
Legal Assistance. The bilateral instruments aim at implementing the
2003 U.S.-EU Extradition and Mutual Legal Assistance Agreements.
The Agreement on Extradition modernizes the 1908 Extradition treaty
between the U.S. and Portugal. Among the most important features is
a provision replacing outdated lists of extraditable offenses with
the dual criminality approach. It also allows extradition for a
broader range of offenses and for newer ones. The Agreement
contains a series of significant improvements to expedite the
Prior to these advances, no bilateral law enforcement treaty existed
between the United States and Portugal in the area of mutual legal
assistance. The current mutual legal assistance instrument reflects
the high level of bilateral cooperation here and exemplifies
on-going efforts to meet the obligations arising from the U.S.-EU
In June 2009, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano visited Lisbon to meet
with the Portuguese Foreign, Interior and Justice Ministers. After
the roundtable meeting, Sec. Naplitano and the Interior and Justice
ministers signed a bilateral agreement on Preventing and Combating
Crime (PCC) that will allow the exchange of information on
biometrics, criminal history records, and terrorism. The USG
initially proposed this agreement (under the name "Preventing and
Combating Serious Crime") to the GOP in 2008 as part of enhanced
security arrangements mandated by the 9/11 Act for VWP countries.
m. AREAS OF PARTICULAR CONCERN: As noted in REFTEL B, post
occasionally sees employment-based IVs seemingly being used in lieu
of a family-based immigration option. Typically, a cousin in the
United States will over-inflate the size and solvency of the
US-based business. Additionally, the applicants in these cases do
not tend to possess training or schooling logical to the intended
"position." While not prevalent enough to be legitimately called a
trend, Post did return to DHS during this reporting period one such
petition with a recommendation for revocation. Post is grateful to
KCC for pro-actively researching and highlighting inconsistencies in
the Petitioner's claims. Post has noticed a particular immigration
attorney's name attached to cases of this ilk and is employing Watch
Phrase and other Department and CCD resources in search of common
threads. We will report back if something solidifies.
Something that is not strictly fraud perpetrated against Post but
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which merits mention due to frequency is the number of scams against
ESTA registrants. Internet sites pop up bearing striking
resemblances to the legitimate USG site. The sites collect the
unwitting applicant's personal and financial information. In the
best case scenario, the entrepreneurial owners of the site properly
register applicants with ESTA, and extract a one-time fee. On the
other end of the scale is full-fledged identity theft. Post tries
to report and shut down such sites, but it is akin to playing
whack-a-mole. Post is proud to note that 100 percent of email
inquiries receive a personal response within two working days. We
can, therefore, sometimes stop this problem before it starts.
Additionally, since the official ESTA launch, Post has placed ads,
done outreach, and posted warnings on our web site in hopes of
reinforcing to the public that such sites are neither legitimate nor
n. STAFFING AND TRAINING PATTERN: Laura Chamberlin is Embassy
Lisbon's Visa Unit Chief and Fraud Prevention Manager and will soon
be Visas Viper Program liaison. She completed the Advanced
Consular, Advanced Namechecking, and Fraud Prevention Manager
courses in Spring 2009. Margarida Gomes is Embassy Lisbon's Legal
Advisor and has completed various anti-fraud training courses,
including the PC-542 "FSN Fraud Prevention Workshop" in November of
2004. Jeanette Rebert is Consulate Ponta Delgada's Consular Section
Chief (both Visa and ACS units), FPM and Visa Viper Program liaison.
She completed the Advanced Consular and Advanced Namechecking
courses in March 2006