Gaping hole in world security architecture from cash for passports program

Gaping hole in world security architecture from cash for passports program

By TDN Wire Staff

January 01, 2017 6:55 P.M

Loopholes may be exploited.
Washington, DC (TDN)

In a world in which we have witnessed increasingly brazen terrorist acts of violence resulting in the deaths of scores of innocent people across the Globe the world security services have been working steadfastly to combat this scourge.

Now frustration is being expressed that their very best and rewarding efforts are being seriously undermined by the mindless ‘sale of passports for cash’ by purportedly struggling economies mainly from the Caribbean Region.

In the January 1, 2017 broadcast of the vaunted CBS 60 Minutes program Peter Vincent who served as the top legal adviser for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) noted, “in my opinion the global community has established a very effective global security infrastructure to prevent terrorist attacks. I see these cash for citizenship programs as a gaping hole in that security architecture.”

He was articulating a position shared by General John Kelley, who is tipped to be the new head of the DHS, when in a briefing to the US Senate Arms Committee on 12 March 2015 posited that “Regional economic citizenship programs provide a quick path for foreign nationals to acquire citizenship… and of concern, these "cash for passport" programs could be exploited by criminals, terrorists, or other nefarious actors to obtain freedom of movement, facilitate entry into the U.S., or launder illicitly gained funds.”

Of even greater concern to the US authorities is the practice particularly observed by the Roosevelt Skerrit led administration in Dominica of issuing diplomatic passports, often in exchange for huge sums of cash. Vincent views the issuance of diplomatic passports “as an even bigger security threat.”

“The border officials at the receiving country, even without a visa, almost always admit an individual carrying a diplomatic passport. In addition, border forces are not entitled to search the luggage of diplomats like they are for regular tourists. They simply wave them through,” he added.

Although not part of Dominica’s Citizenship by Investment program this practice have been going unabated since as far back as 2003. Prime minister Roosevelt Skerrit in 2005 issued two diplomatic passports to Susan Oldie for US $ 400 000, which proceeds were used to fund that year’s general election, guaranteeing his party’s reelection.

Over time, Dominica diplomatic passports have ended up in the hands of a veritable hodgepodge of criminals, crooks, money launderers, and at least one former Nazi . Chinese billionaire NG Lap Seng who is currently under arrest in the US and awaiting a May 2017 trial in New York for among other charges money laundering first received his in 2003.

Francesco Corallo who was briefly named Dominica’s ambassador at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is also a holder of a government issued diplomatic passport. Local press reports in Dominica reveal that as much as US $2 million may have been paid for that privilege. He is awaiting extradition to Italy from St Maarten where he was recently arrested.

While these names are known, what ostensibly keep US security officials like Peter Vincent awake at night is the list of the unknown. These are individuals who may have quietly secured such passports for nefarious reasons and who may be poised to enter Europe or potentially even the US.

The Dominica opposition United Workers Party (UWP) have long questioned the practice of the issuance of diplomatic passports. On November 8, 2006, during a Parliamentary seating, Member of Parliament Norris Charles asked prime minister Skerrit to “list the names of all persons, other than born Dominicans who have been appointed as ambassadors…”

The prime minister responded with the following names: David King Hsiu, David Ng (Lap Seng), Graeme Christopher Thomson, Claude Leon Martin Skalawski, Peter Cappeller, Susan Ann Shaheen Olde, Leroy Coleridge Paris and Eric Torner.

Interestingly enough when on October 19, 2016 a similar question was raised in parliament by Opposition Leader Lennox Linton, a defensive foreign minister Francine Baron rose to indicate that the government could not conduct its foreign policy in public, and flatly refused as was done previously to give the list of ‘diplomats’ in her response.

“The government has never as a rule publicized sensitive details of these appointments outside of the corresponding countries to which persons are engaged. Effective foreign policy is never practiced in the media or public domain. “

“While the government could have no difficulty sharing the number of diplomatic appointments and postings established, it remains opposed to the idea of divulging detailed information on all appointees in a forum that is essentially public in nature and to which the entire world has access,” Baron added.

Notwithstanding her promise to make the list available to the opposition this is yet to be realized inspite of numerous calls from Linton to her office.

In the absence of facts, speculation runs deep. Many in Dominica questioned why the government refused to make public this information. After all diplomats are the public faces of countries, and what about Baron’s claim “…and to which the entire world has access.” From just who and what are these ‘diplomats’ being protected? Some speculate that given the enormous sums paid for that privilege it is likely that the buyers’ demand as part of the deal, anonymity.

Others quietly worry that among that list are those who are quietly thankful to a government that would actually grant them that anonymity, and who could potentially use their diplomatic passports to further compound and undermine the world’s security architecture.

In a world of tortured terrorism this policy promoted by greedy and incompetent politicians simply cannot be allowed to compromise the world’s security. Indeed this ‘gaping hole in the security infrastructure’ must be quickly removed.

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