Raids on alleged immigration fraud ring nets 50 suspects
Following a long-running investigation, police and immigration officials say raids this week in Vanuatu’s two largest towns have identified 50 alleged cases of immigration-related fraud.
The raids in Port Vila and Luganville netted 50 suspects who have allegedly been creating fake visas, passports, ID Cards and work permits to sell to foreigners.
Director of Vanuatu Immigration, Jeffery Markson, says the 50 suspects include foreigners and local people.
He says the suspects were detained by police and immigration officers at their homes on Tuesday this week.
The Minister of Internal Affairs, Ishmael Kalsakau, says, “Over the last five years, these alleged criminals appear to have made over VT50 million by counterfeiting migration documents.”
He says if the Chinese national suspects detained are found to be involved in the fraud activities, they would be deported.
He says the local people detained, if found guilty, would go to jail.
The Department of Immigration and Passport Services says it has been investigating the fraud ring for two years and believes it has been issuing fake resident permit cards, citizenship letters, passports, immigration stamps and letters of immigration certification.
Minister Kalsakau says some of the suspects had allegedly facilitated the fraud.
The Minister says alleged activities include document manufacturing, duplications and counterfeiting and the forgery of official documents.
The Minister said he believes the fraud ring’s activities could represent “VT20 million lost in government revenue over the past five years.”
Mr Kalsakau says the fraudulent activities not only resulted in loss of revenue for the country but also allowed foreigners with criminal records in transnational crime and money laundering to enter Vanuatu.
This week, VBTC witnessed police officers raiding a building in Port Vila that belonged to a Chinese national who police allege is a key suspect in the case.
Officers say they removed what appear to be faked documents from the suspect.
The raids were part of the ‘INDIA Delta Operation’ which has involved more than 100 police and immigration officers and follows an official complaint from the Immigration Department to the Vanuatu Police on 10 June.
Police say they will continue to help the Immigration Department investigate and prosecute people undertaking migration documentation fraud.