Criminal charges to be laid in passport scam

By Joyetter Luamanu 23 November 2017, 12:00AM

The Samoa Government will file criminal charges against one individual as a result of the criminal investigation into allegations for the issuing of false passports.

And an employee at the Immigration Division has been issued a notice of termination of service.

This is according to a press statement issued by the Press Secretary.

He was responding to questions from the Samoa Observer sent to the Ministry of Prime Minister and Cabinet, and Chief Executive Officer, Agafili Shem Leo about the sale of false passports. 

The sale of passports was brought to the attention of the Immigration Office by the Samoa Observer back in September.

This led to the government launching an investigation into allegations that someone was “selling Samoan passports” online. 

According to the press statement, Police have now completed their investigation referring to the files submitted for their consideration by the Ministry of Prime Minister and Cabinet, (M.P.M.C.) that were passed to the Attorney General for a review of the recommended charges. 

“The Attorney General has finalised the advice to the police, and it is anticipated that charges will commence by the end of this week. 

At this stage, one person will be charged. 

“Meanwhile, the Ministry of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has completed its internal investigation of a member of the Immigration Division, as to alleged breaches of the Public Service Act and has subsequently issued termination of service against that employee.” 

Earlier this week the Samoa Observer asked whether there had been any changes within Immigration since the sale of passports came to light. 

The press statement indicated that further enquiries have been proposed, to evaluate the systems in place for issuing new passports, in order to ascertain what changes need to be implemented, to prevent this from recurring in the future. 

The Immigration Minister and Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi said in the statement “There will always be those who try to cheat the system.

“However the speed in which this matter has been dealt with, is to be commended with the Ministry of the Prime Minister and Cabinet working closely with the Ministry of Police and the Attorney General’s Office. 

“The message should be clear, that any such passport offending will result in quick action and an investigation, and where the evidence supports, the individuals involved will be charged.”

This week, Member of Parliament Olo Fiti Vaai, expressed concern about the lack of information on what action the Ministry of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (M.P.M.C.) had taken since evidence was provided that someone was “selling Samoan passports” online.

“I am highly concerned that refugees and terrorists can easily move in illegally using passports purchased online that is why the government should prioritize this investigation and act quickly.

“Samoa is being used as a gateway for people overseas to get to other countries such as Europe,” Olo told the Samoa Observer.

Samoa passport holders do not need a visa to enter Europe. 

“Obtaining a passport in any country is scrutinized under strict and stringent requirements, but it appears obtaining a Samoan passport is like purchasing a paper from the supermarket.” 

The process of obtaining a Samoan passport should be highly secured, he said. 

“This should be a warning to the government that they need to amend the requirements and they need to do what they have to do, to eliminate this unlawful act,” said Olo Fiti. 

He reminded the Government that this issue is not new. 

“It happened before, back in the 1980’s and yet it has returned and so it’s a clear indication that nothing has been done about it, otherwise history would not repeat itself. 

“I am appalled to say the least about how long it’s taken for the government to criminally charge those responsible,” said Olo.

“Also the entire country wants to know what the outcome is if there is one yet. 

In October, the Attorney General Lemalu Herman P. Retzlaff, issued a ‘prohibition order’ for Immigration Employee Mr. Nomereta Uaine and a member of the public, Fitu Goshe. 

A week later the Immigration Office suspended an immigration employee while they investigate the alleged sale of Samoan passports online. 

David Nomereta Uaine, the suspended Immigration officer, confirmed the decision when he was contacted by the Samoa Observer. He said he was informed of his suspension, but declined to comment. 

“They already told me about it,” Mr. Uaine said during an interview with the Samoa Observer over the phone. 

Mr. Uaine declined to discuss the allegations against him.

Samoa Observer emailed Agafili seeking a status on the investigation of the matter however as of Press Time, there has been no response. 

The allegation is contained in an email from one “Joanna Slewion”, which the Samoa Observer had referred to the Ministry of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. According to the email, the person claimed that someone is “selling Samoa passport out to African (sic)”.

The email said: “He even fooled me to send my 1000 U.S. dollars to him that he was going to give me the passport to go to Europe.” 

The money was sent however there had been no contact from the alleged passport procurer. The email to the Samoa Observer indicates that this has been ongoing. 

 “He has been processing Samoa Apia passports for others and they have used it to travel to Europe,” the email claims.

The informant said he had reported the matter to the Immigration Office in Samoa. 

“I asked him for my money back and he refuses to do so I contacted the Immigration. I got only few replies until now. I have not gotten my money from him.”

By Joyetter Luamanu 23 November 2017, 12:00AM

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