Comoros says abuse of passports-for-cash scheme worries Gulf allies

Comorian passports can be seen in this file photo.(Reuters)
Updated 20 January 2018
0

Comoros says abuse of passports-for-cash scheme worries Gulf allies

MORONI: Comoros has sold citizenship to nearly 52,000 foreigners since 2009, the government said in the first official statement on the scale of a passports-for-cash deal with Gulf states.
Most of the documents had been sold under an approved scheme but there had been abuses that led to some Iranians buying passports, which had sparked tensions with Gulf allies, the country's foreign minister said.
Comoros struck a deal with the United Arab Emirates in 2008 to sell economic citizenship to stateless Bidoon people living in the Gulf in exchange for cash for the poor Indian Ocean nation. However, the Comoros parliament is investigating complaints of corruption and procedures not being followed.
The previously undisclosed tally for the number of passports sold means Comoros – a nation of some 800,000 people – should have received more than $260 million in revenues, a sum equivalent to over 40 percent of its gross domestic product.
However, Comoros investigators say large amounts of cash cannot be accounted for.
Sales on hold
A Reuters report last month detailed how some passports had been sold to foreigners outside the original accord, including people alleged to have broken sanctions on Iran.
Comoros Interior Minister Mohamed Daoudou said the sale of further passports and renewal of existing documents held by foreigners were on hold pending the parliamentary inquiry and investigations into sales to people outside official agreements.
The government says it has sought help from Interpol and U.S government investigators.
U.S. and Interpol officials contacted by Reuters could not confirm whether an official request had been made.
Some Comoros and Western officials fear that the scheme was hijacked by people looking to bypass sanctions on Iran.
"The vast majority of people who secured passports (outside the official programme) are of Iranian origin or are working for Iran," Foreign Minister Souef Mohamed El Amine said on Friday.


Thousands await rescue amid deadly south Indian floods

Updated 39 min 35 sec ago
0

Thousands await rescue amid deadly south Indian floods

  • Thousands of people are waiting to be rescued as relentless monsoon rains cause extensive flooding
  • The central government has dispatched military units to Kerala, but state officials are pleading for additional help

NEW DELHI: Thousands of stranded people are waiting for rescue as relentless monsoon floods batter the south Indian state of Kerala, where more than 170 have died in a little over a week and much of the state is at least partially submerged.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Saturday with the state’s top officials, promising tens of millions of dollars in aid.
The central government has dispatched military units to Kerala, but state officials are pleading for additional help.
The Indian Express newspaper reported that state legislator Saji Cherian begged for aid on a TV news channel, saying, “Please ask Modi to give us helicopters, give us helicopters. please, please!“
Over 300 people have died in Kerala since the monsoon started in June, including over 170 since torrential rains began in August.