Cablegate: Fraud Summary - Bamako
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHBP #0725/01 3101137
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 061137Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY BAMAKO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0868
RUEHPNH/NVC PORTSMOUTH 0015
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHFT/AMCONSUL FRANKFURT 0595
RUEHBZ/AMEMBASSY BRAZZAVILLE 0003
RUEHOU/AMEMBASSY OUAGADOUGOU 0292
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 BAMAKO 000725
DEPT FOR CA/FPP IAN GRAY
FRANKFURT FOR RCO SARAH WELLBORNE
DHS FOR CIS/FDNS
BRAZAVILLE FOR CONSULAR SECTION
OUAGADOUGOU FOR CONSULAR SECTION
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KFRD CVIS CPAS CMGT ASEC ML
SUBJECT: FRAUD SUMMARY - BAMAKO
REF: (A) 08 STATE 074840, (B) STATE 097431, (C) BAMAKO 00367
BAMAKO 00000725 001.2 OF 004
Following is Embassy Bamako's fraud report for the second half of FY
2009. Responses are keyed to paragraph 7 of Reftel A.
A. COUNTRY CONDITIONS: Bamako is a high fraud post.
Mali is the second largest country in West Africa in terms of
territory, and is one of the world's poorest nations with a per
capita income of around USD 250. Unemployment is high. Fraud
investigations are hampered by the fact that most Malians cannot
read and write, and therefore rely on others to fill out
applications. Further, due to the lack of education and
documentation, many applicants do not know their own dates of birth
and other general facts or circumstances about their own lives.
Limited infrastructure makes travel and outreach difficult. There
are concentrations of expatriate Malians living in the Washington,
New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore metro areas and most business
and tourist visa applicants intend to travel to these locations.
There is a steady stream of tourist, commercial trader, and student
applicants. Apparently bucking the worldwide trend, during FY09 NIV
applications were up six percent with appointments booked at the end
of the fiscal year through mid November representing a potential
increase in FY09 workload of 18 percent over FY08.
B. NIV FRAUD: The primary type of NIV fraud encountered in Bamako
involves fraudulent documents of all kinds, including civil,
financial and school documents. These practices touch close to 90
percent of NIV fraud cases. The consular section encounters
fraudulent documents on a daily basis. Fortunately, most fraud is
unsophisticated and applicants attempting to make use of false
documents are refused under INA section 214b before FPU resources
Although wide-spread, the fraud encountered in Bamako does not
appear to be systematic. To combat document fraud, the consular
office relies on a network of local government, school, and private
bank officials to verify documents regarded as suspicious. Some
documents cannot be verified because they are from regions outside
of Bamako. The daily volume of questionable documents accompanying
NIV applications means the consular section can only verify selected
In general, there appear to be three primary reasons for NIV fraud:
legitimate travelers attempting to bolster what they fear might be
viewed as a questionable case; those wishing to stay and work in the
United States; and those wishing to reunited with family who have
overstayed in the United States. The vast majority of children seen
with false birth certificates fall into this latter category.
The use of false feeder documents is a trend observed at post. In
nearly all cases of this type, the "parents" were either
well-qualified or already had a visa, and came with their "children"
to apply for trips, usually to visit family or friends in the United
States. After several revocations and findings of ineligibilities
under section 212(a)(6)(E), the pattern seems to abate for a while
but then returns again after some months.
Thanks to our proactive colleagues at Embassy Brazzaville, Post was
made aware of a Brazzaville-based fraud scheme to generate false
passport entry stamps for the United Arab Emirates. An arrest was
made in this case in mid September in Brazzaville and the Congolese
police investigation indicated significant numbers of Malian
nationals were included in this scam. Based on the detailed fraud
indicators provided by Embassy Brazzaville for these particular
stamps, in less than a month's time, post was able to intercept
upwards of a dozen applicants with these fraudulent stamps. All of
these individuals were merchants attempting to bolster their weak
travel history by purporting trips to Dubai for their purchases.
All of these individuals were refused under INA 214b.
In August 2009, two very poor quality fraudulent U.S. Lincoln Visas
in Malian passports were intercepted by the immigration police at
the Bamako Senou International Airport. While post was neither able
to examine the actual documents nor interview the imposters, the
Malian immigration authorities provided photocopies of the
fraudulent visas to the Embassy. A review of the photocopies
suggests one visa to be a washed Lincoln foil with a low quality
printer and unsophisticated attempt to print data. The other foil
appears to be a poor quality scan and color print of the same foil.
This information was turned over to the RSO.
C. IV FRAUD: Embassy Bamako does not issue immigrant visas but
BAMAKO 00000725 002.2 OF 004
accepts immigrant visa petitions for the immediate relatives of U.S.
citizens filed by U.S. citizens who have resided in Mali for six
months or more. All petitions at post are family based petitions
and are usually filed by Peace Corps volunteers, international NGO
employees, or other long term residents planning to return to the
United States after serving abroad. Post routinely conducts
immigrant visa-related antifraud investigations for Embassy Dakar
(our IV processing post), Embassy Abidjan, and the Department of
Homeland Security (DHS).
D. DV FRAUD: Embassy Bamako does not issue diversity visas; however,
shortly after the reporting period post has plans to conduct an
information campaign in order to educate potential applicants about
the DV program. As in the case of IVs, post also routinely conducts
DV-related anti-fraud investigations for the Embassy Dakar.
E. ACS AND PASSPORT FRAUD: The biggest challenge to post's passport
operations is the fact that the vast majority of passport applicants
are made on behalf of children with only one or no U.S. citizen
parent. Most of the cases are presented to officers by a third
party -- a relative or guardian -- rather than the child's
biological parents, who are usually residing, often illegally, in
the United States. The biggest obstacle in these cases comes in
verifying the identity of the child presented at the window.
Confirming that the child at the consular window is the same as the
infant pictured in a passport is a serious challenge because many of
the parents and/or guardians of these children have allowed their
child's passport to expire.
Post regularly requires additional documentation such as age
progression photos, passports of parents showing their travel to the
United States, and hospital records when adjudicating cases.
Further complicating the issue is obtaining verification of parental
consent. Parents frequently provide consent forms, notarized in the
United States, but there is no way to determine if the person who
signed the consent is the actual parent, as thousands may have that
same name. Although there have been no cases of imposters using
U.S. passports to travel to the United States, post continues to
remind Malian authorities that we are available for consultation and
training when fraud is suspected.
F. ADOPTION FRAUD: Post has spent a considerable amount of time
during the reporting period attempting to verify Mali's compliance
with the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoptions. This has been
prompted by the receipt of post's first Hague adoption case. A
cursory review of the petition has revealed several fraud
indicators. As post does not issue immigrant visas, all of this
information has been shared with Embassy Dakar.
G. DNA TESTING: Post routinely requests DNA testing in connection
with Visas 92/93 cases and CRBA applications where the relationships
of beneficiaries to petitioners are in serious doubt. CRBA cases
involving DNA usually involve Americans males with dual nationality
who come to make a CRBA application several years after the birth of
child or for multiple children with different mothers. Visas 92/93
cases requiring DNA usually involve applicants with no civil
documents and/or proof of relationship.
Post has enthusiastically welcomed the new DNA testing procedures
detailed in Reftel B as post has long harbored doubts as to the
efficacy of its DNA testing procedures due to the virtual absence of
any negative DNA results (Reftel C). Post has not yet been able to
implement the procedures spelled out in State 097431 but is working
to do so. In the interim post has frozen all DNA testing.
H. ASYLUM AND DHS BENEFITS FRAUD: Post continues to process a
significant number of Visas 92/93 cases and has observed a more than
doubling of cases during FY09 versus FY08. These cases include
beneficiaries from Guinea, Cote d'Ivoire, Mauritania, Mali, Sierra
Leone, Liberia, and Congo-Brazzaville. Post finds it difficult to
identify fraud in these cases because the majority of follow-to-join
beneficiaries have either no identification documents at all or
certificates from areas where verification is impossible. In
addition, many of these cases involve individuals who cannot read or
write. They often cannot provide specific dates or timelines and
are confused about other details of their experiences. As reported
in paragraph G, after consultations with DHS, post routinely
suggests DNA testing in cases where the relationship of
beneficiaries to petitioners is in doubt.
Post's greatest concern in Visas 92 cases are the ever growing
number of cases involving Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). This
trend was first observed in FY08 and has continued to grow over this
BAMAKO 00000725 003.2 OF 004
reporting period. In a typical FGM-related case the asylum
petitioner is a woman petitioning for her family to join her in the
United States. The basis on which asylum was granted was the fact
that the woman had undergone FGM and feared returning to her native
country for reasons related to FGM. Post notes that many of the
petitioners in these cases had been present in the United States for
many years before making their FGM-based asylum claim. We further
note that many of these petitions have been filed by immigration
attorneys and appear strikingly similar, suggesting a pattern.
FGM is a practice that has been recognized under international law
as a violation of human rights and post is not questioning its
grounds for asylum claims but is only raising the fact that a
potentially legitimate basis for an asylum claim appears as if it is
being exploited. Post has made its concerns known to the regional
DHS Office and per 9 FAM Appendix O, 1208.2-5(A) has reported on
suspected fraudulent use of FGM-based asylum claims to USCIS' Asylum
I. ALIEN SMUGGLING, TRAFFICKING, ORGANIZED CRIME, AND TERRORIST
TRAVEL: As discussed in paragraph B, post has seen an increase in
child trafficking cases with otherwise well-qualified adults
facilitating. Post is unaware of any cases relating to terrorism,
organized crime or organized trafficking in the reporting period.
J. DS CRIMINAL FRAUD INVESTIGATIONS: Bamako's consular and RSO
sections enjoy a professional relationship. Consular employees are
quick to bring to RSO's attention any cases involving fraud.
However, as noted above, Malian authorities are reluctant to
prosecute or investigate cases of alleged document fraud and
During the second half of FY09 Post was part of an investigation
opened by Diplomatic Security's New York Field Office
(VF-2009-00834) regarding a business in New York City which was
believed to be selling invitation letters to electronics merchants
in various West African nations, including Mali. This investigation
was opened at the initiation of Embassy Ouagadougou in cooperation
with CA/FPP. Embassy Bamako was able to track down several recent
applicants using these invitation letters and re-interview them and
provide scans of the invitation letters and associated
documentation. After investigation, the case was ultimately closed
by Diplomatic Security with no action taken against the New York
K. HOST COUNTRY PASSPORT, IDENTITY DOCUMENTS AND CIVIL REGISTRY:
Passports, birth certificates, marriage certificates and other
official documents are easily obtained in Mali. In February 2007,
with funding from the Canadian government, Mali came out with a new
machine readable passport. The new book contains several security
features including microprinting, UV features, and a full color
digital photo. A Malian passport may be obtained by presenting a
valid birth certificate and, for adult applicants, a photo ID.
Passport errors such as alternate name spellings and birth date
changes are common. Mali does not currently have an agreement with
the United States to extend passport validity six months beyond the
expiration date, so consular officers frequently have to request
that visa applicants obtain a new passport before a visa can be
As an example of how quickly a Malian passport can be obtained Post
refused a qualified B1/B2 applicant under INA 221g and asked him to
obtain a new passport at 8:00 a.mm (less than 6 months validity
remaining) and the individual returned before 3:00 p.m. with the new
Due to the number of offices and individuals authorized to issue
birth and marriage certificates, the variety of different official
formats for these documents, and the prevalence of blank official
forms and seals on the open market, it is often impossible to
differentiate between authentic and false certificates. Individuals
who do not have a valid birth certificate or birth records only need
two witnesses to certify to a clerk of court their birth date and a
certificate will be issued. In almost every circumstance, all such
documents must be verified.
Since obtaining Malian passports and civil documents is so easy,
post has seen NIV applicants with valid Malian passports who would
not seem to be Malian. Their inability to speak one of the local
languages and unfamiliarity with Malian cultural and historic
traditions are often indicators that they are not bona fide
applicants. Post has received reports that Nigerians have been
issued Malian passports.
BAMAKO 00000725 004.2 OF 004
L. COOPERATION WITH HOST GOVERNMENT AUTHORITIES: Cooperation with
Malian government officials on fraud matters is low. The Embassy
maintains close contacts with several of the local authorities
responsible for verifying official documents though unfortunately,
the response of law enforcement officials when provided with
evidence of fraud and likely criminal activity, still remains
anemic, in large part due to capacity constraints.
M. AREAS OF PARTICULAR CONCERN: Post's main concern is its inability
to pay as much attention to fraud prevention matters as it would
like given current staffing (refer to paragraph N for further
details) This situation has lead to an over-reliance on the senior
FSN visa assistant who has also been doubling as the
fraud-prevention FSN. Post is looking forward to encumbering both
the full-time fraud prevention FSN position as well as the A/EFM
Consular Associate position during the first quarter of FY10. With
the addition of these extra resources, post will be well positioned
to improve its attention to fraud prevention.
A secondary concern is that during the reporting period post has
transitioned from a contracted NIV appointment call center to CA's
online NIV appointment system. This action was taken mostly due to
the call center's poor service but additionally due to indications
of occasional malfeasance. While post is satisfied with the on-line
system, there may be vulnerabilities due to its lack of experience
and familiarity with the new system. Post has conferred with other
regional posts using the online system and implemented several of
their best practices.
N. STAFFING AND TRAINING: The consular section has one full-time
and one part-time officer position. The incumbent part-time officer
departed post in April. Post is confident that the officer staffing
situation will improve during FY10. On the LE staffing front, post
is welcoming a new A/EFM consular associate after a 17 month gap at
that position and will be encumbering the new full-time fraud
associate position in the first quarter of FY10.
The consular section chief has taken the Fraud Prevention course for
Managers. Post will send the part-time consular officer to this
course as soon as possible. As detailed in paragraph M, until the
full-time fraud prevention FSN position is encumbered, Bamako's visa
assistant will continue to handle the fraud-prevention portfolio.
He has attended the fraud prevention course for LE staff and also
attended the consular regional workshop at FSI. He additionally
completed the FSI online correspondence courses including Detecting
Imposters, Detecting Fraudulent Documents, Immigration Law and Visa
Operations, Nationality Law/Consular Procedures, Overseas Citizens
Services. We expect there to be a period of transition when the
full-time fraud prevention FSN gets up to speed, but this should not
last beyond the second quarter of FY10.