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.


China orders evacuations after landslide blocks Tibet river

Updated 3 min 33 sec ago
0

China orders evacuations after landslide blocks Tibet river

BEIJING: Around 6,000 people have been evacuated following a landslide in Tibet that blocked the flow of one of the region’s key rivers, China’s emergency services said Thursday.
A barrier lake was formed on the Yarlung Tsangpo, the headwater of India’s Brahmaputra River, following the Wednesday morning collapse of a cliff in the deep valley through which the river flows, the local emergency response bureau said in a report carried by state media.
No deaths or injuries have been reported and the bureau said China has been keeping India updated on the blockage, which could potentially affect water levels in lower regions.
The landslide struck near a village in Menling County and water in the lake had risen to a height of 40 meters (131 feet) by Thursday, the bureau said.
With its towering peaks and glaciers, Tibet is the source of numerous Asian rivers, adding to China’s strategic influence over its southern neighbors. Fast rising temperatures have caused those glaciers to melt at an increasing pace, throwing a shadow over future water resources for China and other Asian nations.