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Cablegate: Fraud Summary (Revised) Q Abidjan, Cote Dqivoire

VZCZCXYZ0001
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHAB #0647/01 3061344
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 021344Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY ABIDJAN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5495
RUEHPNH/NVC PORTSMOUTH 0066

UNCLAS ABIDJAN 000647

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR CA/FPP, CA/VO/KCC
ACCRA FOR DHS
FRANKFURT FOR RCO
INFO: REGIONAL BUREAU COLLECTIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KFRD CVIS CPAS CMGT ASEC IV

SUBJECT: FRAUD SUMMARY (REVISED) Q ABIDJAN, COTE DQIVOIRE

REF: 08 STATE 74840, 09 State 57623

1. Following is AbidjanQs fraud summary for April 2009 through
August, 2009.

2. COUNTRY CONDITIONS: Cote dQIvoire has been a divided country
since a 2002 failed coup attempt evolved into an armed rebellion
that split the country in two. Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo and
New Forces leader Guillaume Soro signed the Ouagadougou Political
Agreement (OPA) in March 2007, and a new government was formed with
Soro as Prime Minister (PM). Implementation of the accord is
ongoing, with elections scheduled for late 2009, but The Ivorian
government has not regained full control of the northern part of the
country which remains under the de-facto control of the New Forces.


Presidential elections are currently scheduled for November 2009,
but preparations are behind schedule. Although the unstable and
unpredictable security environment that led to previous evacuations
no longer prevails, Americans traveling to Cote dQIvoire should
follow political developments carefully, as there is potential for
violence in the run-up to, and aftermath of, elections.

3. NIV FRAUD: The most common types of NIV fraud referred to the FPU
are related to fraudulent documentation. During this reporting
period, AbidjanQs FPU investigated 22 cases associated with NIV
applications. In one case, a student presented a fraudulent
scholarship letter from the government of Cote dQIvoire signed by a
representative of the mayor in the embassyQs district. Additionally,
there were a handful of A or G visas referred, many with relatives
posing as governesses or butlers to obtain G5 status in which there
was no employer/employee relationship. Further, a case involving an
invitation to Ministry of Education officials from an unauthorized
member of the Ivoirian Mission to the United Nations in NY revealed
a breach so serious that it reached the level of the Prime Minister
and the offender was recalled from overseas diplomatic service.

Fraud refused at the window: Based on a survey of one month's
refusals, post estimates there are up to three times more fraudulent
documents per month than referred. These include merchants and
traders applying to purchase merchandise, often in New York, where
some are known to have been selling smuggled African goods on the
N.Y. market scene or on the streets while in the United States. With
the "suspect documents" feature in new software version, intake
assistants tracked about 117 cases with suspicious documents
indicating common, though low-complexity, fraud. In one case, an
advisor in the Ministry of Finance submitted a bank statement in
support of his B1/B2 application, showing a balance of over $10,000
while verification of the statement revealed that the actual balance
was only about $150. It is not known why the applicant submitted
the fake bank statement.

4. IV FRAUD: Marriage fraud and fraudulent child/parent
relationships are the most common trends in IV cases, and usually
take the form of fraudulent marriage or divorce documents. Abidjan
FPU investigated several cases associated with IV applications,
including a random verification of DNA collection procedures. These
revealed five fraudulent claims of relationship, approximately a 7%
ratio fraudulent to bona fide, compounded by the fact that DNA tests
showed that the QauthenticQ birth certificates in some cases were
fraudulent. Post also had negative DNA in four alleged parent/child
relationships.

5. DV FRAUD: Adjudicators routinely refer marriage and educational
credentials to FPU for verification due to the high incidence of
fraud associated with DV applications. The Fraud Prevention Unit is
tracking the emergence of a new trend among fraudulent documents:
fraudulent results printed on genuine paper. This type of fraud has
expanded to bank statements and other official documents. To gauge
the extent of this emerging trend, post referred a significant
portion of claimed-to-be authentic educational and marriage
documents to FPU this quarter. Of the cases referred, 4 were found
to be fraudulent. While a relatively small number, it will provide
post with a baseline to judge any further growth in this emerging
trend. During September, in the final stretch leading to the DV
2009 program end, the FPU needed to focus all efforts and resources
on the expedited verification of documents submitted in support of
Diversity Visa (DV) applications. FPU succeeded in expediting all
investigations to aid legitimate applicants, but many of the lower
priority cases, where fraud was very likely involved, could not be
completed in time. The unit consulted with Embassy Accra about the
increasing trend of Ghanaian DV winners with new spouses scheduling
interviews in Abidjan rather than in Accra. Embassy Accra reported
they have uncovered a marriage fraud ring which is currently under
investigation by Ghanaian authorities. The increased applications
from Ghanaian applicants, a 50% increase in interview appointments
versus last DV year, suggests a trend of applicants from Ghana
trying to evade inspection in Ghana.

6. ACS AND U.S. PASSPORT FRAUD: Although Abidjan has not yet
detected cases of confirmed fraud in passport and CRBA cases, every
case must be scrutinized for a real relationship between parent and
child, and hard evidence of physical presence that meets
transmission requirements. Few passport renewal cases are routine.
The incidence of QaccidentalQ births in the U.S. to Ivoirian mothers
experiencing Qunexpected complicationsQ while in the U.S. for
tourism is the norm, with expectant mothers giving birth on
Medicaid, while friends and relatives lead them to believe there is
a free birthing fund, which includes Qfree citizenshipQ for their
children. U.S. citizen minors are brought home to be raised as
Ivoirians, but entitled to emergency services and other benefits.
Frequently, parents come in to renew passports issued to infants up
to 15 years prior with piles of photos to prove relationship.
Parents never document the children as Ivoirians for fear of losing
U.S. citizenship. Grown children then attempt to meet requisite
transmission requirements for their own offspring, often with
minimal documentation. Some eventually move to the United States as
adults and petition whole villages of relatives. The Consular
Section is currently conducting a census of all registered citizens
to better determine its population make up, expected to be in large
majority at this time dependent children being raised in Cote
dQIvoire of non-citizen parents. It is also exploring with GOCI
officials the countryQs laws on dual nationality which are vague and
contradictory. While ACS adjudicators have resolved most passport
and CRBA cases through extensive interviews, photos and other means
to prove relationship, it has not ruled out the possibility of DNA
in particularly troublesome cases where strong fraud indicators
exist.

7. ADOPTION FRAUD: No adoption cases to report this quarter.

8. USE OF DNA TESTING: Officers routinely suggest DNA testing to
prove the relationships in family-based immigration cases. The visa
categories most susceptible to fraud are IR2 and Visas 92/93. It is
not uncommon for a parent of a child born out of wedlock to petition
for him or her after never having lived with the child. In these
cases of unconventional relationships, it is difficult to solicit
adequate information and convincing evidence of a qualifying
relationship without resorting to DNA. Post is currently designing
a new collection procedure for DNA pursuant to the instructions in
09 STATE 097431. It is anticipated that the new collection and
handling procedures will take significant time to implement and
oversee in the event that a collection facility has to be built or
otherwise modified, and due to the diminished number of cleared
Americans.

9. ASYLUM AND OTHER DHS BENEFIT FRAUD: Marriage fraud and fraudulent
child/parent relationships are the most common trend in Visas 92/93
cases. DNA is often recommended, particularly in cases of Liberians,
whose documentation is generally unavailable or unverifiable.

10. ALIEN SMUGGLING, TRAFFICKING, ORGANIZED CRIME, TERROTIST TRAVEL:
Post is unaware of any organized alien smuggling at this time
although we regularly have DV applicants claiming derivative status
for a stranger or a relative and who are refused under
212(a)(6)(E).


11. DS CRIMINAL FRAUD INVESTIGATIONS: There have been no formal DS
criminal fraud investigations in Abidjan in this six month reporting
period. RSO has assisted, however, on numerous occasions, with
turning over the investigation of malfeasance at the Ivoirian Post
and Telecommunications, and in visa cases where there were fraud
indicators.

12. HOST COUNTRY PASSPORT, IDENTITY DOCUMENTS AND CIVIL REGISTRY: If
a document for investigation originates in the southern,
government-controlled part of the country, it is possible to verify
its authenticity by visiting the issuing city hall and comparing it
with the relevant page in the register. In the northern half of the
country still under the control of farmer rebels, it has proven
nearly impossible to authenticate civil documents due to the
destruction of so many civil registers. At present, (within the last
6 years) any civil documents from the New Forces controlled northern
region must be considered suspect, as verification of any such
documents is impossible.

13. COOPERATION WITH HOST GOVERNMENT AUTHORITIES: For the most part,
local authorities have given their cooperation with no obstructive
attempts at extracting compensation for their trouble, although the
Consular Section has noted a few cases of airport official
suggesting that QgiftsQ would be welcome when assisting American
citizens detained upon entry without Ivoirian visas due to a hastily
and poorly implemented visa policy early in this period.
Fortunately, however, the Consular Section has persisted in the last
year in developing close and fruitful relationships with a variety
of working-level and high-level ministry and law enforcement
officials. This has been of great benefit in the sectionQs
increased ability to cooperatively cross-vet cases with relatively
effective results of officials where malfeasance is suspected.

14. AREAS OF PARTICULAR CONCERN: Advance Fee Scams: The number of
advance fee scams is rising in the Abidjan consular district. On
average, the Consular Section receives 2-3 inquires per week in
relation to a scam of this type. In most cases, FPU can readily
determine the fraudulent nature of such scams and properly advise
the inquirer. On a time-permitting basis, the FPU has investigated
some of the more sophisticated schemes. Some appear to be connected
to, or simply revisions of, a recurring scam. The FPU and the RSO
offices collaborate closely to share information on fee-scam
activity.

Abidjan is closely monitoring two recent visa scams. First, several
cases coming through postal workers at the main Abidjan post office
are under investigation. Postal and cyber caf employees at the
central post office have been representing themselves as U.S.
Embassy representatives in exchange for additional fees. One postal
worker committed theft and fraud when he took cash for a SEVIS fee
from a prospective studentQs father, then borrowed a credit card
from a colleagueQs acquaintance to generate a receipt, then refunded
the fee to the credit card. This generated an alert message from DHS
to the University and to the studentQs parent, who cooperated with
the Consular Section, and witnesses in separate postal scam cases in
taking the malfeasance to the police. Although the investigation by
the Judicial Police is still ongoing, the section has reached out to
the new Post Office Director for assistance and is currently
launching an anti-fraud public awareness campaign in the media.

The second visa scam is regional and involves a company calling
itself Quality Agency Burkina. The agency is apparently furnishing
its clients with employment documents, EIN numbers and other
information to be provided at a visa interview and is using cover of
well-known American companies such as Colgate Palmolive and
Herbalife. They are also using spoof emails in which the QU.S.
Consular Section AbidjanQ recommends this company to prospective H1B
applicants. They are using the former ConsulQs name and a state.gov
email address for him to respond to inquiries. They are also using
public consular email addresses for which we respond to public
inquiries (consularabidja@state.gov and also
abidjanconsular@state.gov) to email clients.

15. STAFFING AND TRAINING: The FPU has been inadequately staffed due
to an EFM position, vacant since May 2008, and since the
reprogramming of one vice consul in February 2009 to another
critical needs post. The sole Consul and Vice Consul have been so
busy with routine production and management activities that they
have been unable to give this area as much time and attention as it
merits. Also, we began new DNA collection procedures on Friday,
October 30 per State instructions which we estimate will take a
minimum of 8 Q 10 hours of officer time per month for these
additional fraud prevention activities. Based on the new LE visa and
passport production rotation, which involves four local line
assistants and a supervisor, we have not been able permanently to
assign a second LE assistant to anti-fraud activities to assist the
one fraud investigator. Reinstatement of the officer position and an
additional local staff member would greatly enhance our ability to
commit the time necessary to this important work and to keep up with
increased fraud activity in Abidjan.

16. Abidjan looks forward to working closely with FPP on taking its
anti-fraud efforts, previously heavily reliant on documentary fraud,
in a more preventative direction using technology and tools such as
Text Alerts and preventative analysis.

STANLEY

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