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Viewing cable 09BOGOTA3404, Colombian MFA Sounds Alarm about Citizenship Fraud

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09BOGOTA3404 2009-10-27 16:04 2010-11-30 21:09 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Bogota
VZCZCXRO1442
RR RUEHRG
DE RUEHBO #3404/01 3001618
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 271617Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0521
INFO RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN 0001
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 0119
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 0449
RUEHDM/AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS 0001
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM 0002
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT 0001
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ 0051
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA 0475
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO
RUEHRG/AMCONSUL RECIFE 0001
RUEHRI/AMCONSUL RIO DE JANEIRO 0001
RUEHSO/AMCONSUL SAO PAULO
RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV 0001
RUEHUB/USINT HAVANA 0001
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BOGOTA 003404

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS
STATE FOR CA/EX, CA/VO, CA/FPP, AND WHA/AND

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CMGT CVIS PINS KFRD SMIG CO
SUBJECT: Colombian MFA Sounds Alarm about Citizenship Fraud

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: On October 15, 2009 AmEmb Bogota's consular
Fraud Prevention Unit (FPU) met with the head of the passport
office at the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), Mauricio
Acero. Acero requested the meeting to alert FPU to a fraud trend
whereby foreign nationals fraudulently obtain Colombian civil
documents which are then used to request passports. Investigations
by the MFA have led to the revocation of fraudulently-obtained
passports of 24 individuals, while 340 cases remain under
investigation. The cases most frequently involve people of
Lebanese descent, but also Syrians, Palestinians, Jordanians,
Venezuelans, and Cubans. END SUMMARY.



---------------------------------------------

Citizenship fraud begins with civil documents

---------------------------------------------



2. (SBU) Acero highlighted that Colombia's civil documents system
is ripe for fraud as the requirements for obtaining birth
certificates are lenient. Once an individual is in possession of a
Colombian birth certificate they can obtain a national
identification number, which is then used to get a passport. With
a valid national ID, the MFA is required by law to issue a
passport. Acero requested that Embassy personnel voice concern
about gaps in citizenship procedures in the course of high-level
contacts with the Colombian government.



----------------

Fraud indicators

----------------

3. (SBU) The perpetrators of citizenship fraud, according to Acero,
tend to be male and between the ages of 20-25. They often use a
baptism certificate to establish their place of birth (instead of
the customary hospital certification of birth) and claim to have
been born at home. Often the two mandatory witnesses of the birth
will be indigenous. The birth certificate, national identification
card and passport will often have issuance dates in close
proximity. In the case of Lebanese, Syrians, Palestinians, and
Jordanians the subject's first (paternal) last name will be Arab
and the second (maternal) last name will be Spanish. Through a
series of legal procedures, the paternal last name is dropped over
time. The cases tend to come from Maicao, San Andres,
Barranquilla, and Ipiales.



---------------------------------------

Motivations to commit citizenship fraud

---------------------------------------



4. (SBU) Acero told FPU that Lebanese, Syrians, Palestinians, and
Jordanians are motivated to obtain Colombian citizenship to hide
criminal records, avoid military service in their home country,
provide a better future for their children, and for ease in
international travel. The motivations for Cubans and Venezuelans,
on the other hand, are less clear. Acero hypothesized that some
Cubans might wish to escape the regime while others might be using


BOGOTA 00003404 002 OF 002


a Colombian identity as a cover for Cuban intelligence operations.
As for Venezuelans, he said that the motivations are still unclear.



-------

Comment

-------



5. (SBU) FPU spoke with other agencies at Post about the trend.
They noted that this is an on-going issue and concurred that the
motives tend to be to hide criminal backgrounds.



6. (SBU) While Acero did not point to specific malfeasance
involving U.S. visas, FPU appreciated the information and is on the
look-out for the fraud indicators highlighted. FPU requested the
names of the 340 individuals under investigation for citizenship
fraud. The request is under consideration by the MFA.
BROWNFIELD