Vanuatu daily news digest | 30 January 2013

The Minister for Internal Affairs, Toara Daniel, responsible for Immigration, has said the Ministry responsible is not aware of the formation of Pacific Migration Consultants and that the Director General of Internal Affairs George Bogiri must resign because of the conflict of interest presented by his setting up of this company in his own name. Daniel did this following a press conference by DG Bogiri and Principal Immigration Officer François Batick yesterday morning. The Minister’s remarks were reported by Radio Vanuatu News. Bogiri and Batick were giving their explanation why ‘Government’ hired Bogiri’s company to handle all of Vanuatu’s visa applications. DG Bogiri rejected media reports regarding the creation of the business, saying they are “baseless and unfounded,” and explaining the business was formed because of the numerous public complaints about the bad work of the Immigration Department. Batick backed him up and added there would be other agents in future. Straight after the Bogiri press conference, his Minister met members of the media and questioned the self-interest of the DG in making such a move. Minister Toara Daniel said Bogiri must resign and the PM and Council of Ministers must closely examine the matter. The Minister responsible was never informed of the move to set up such a business and observed that policy is only a matter for Government.

Daily Post today begins detailing by the TVL network failure which yesterday affected many of the telecommunications in Vanuatu. The failure interrupted fixed phones, mobiles and internet communications for periods of many hours, and not all services were restored by the end of the working day. More explanation is expected soon. This blog apologises for not delivering a new post yesterday.

Roch Wamytan of FLNKS promised MSG leaders and pioneers at the Symposium last Saturday that FLNKS (Front de libération nationale kanak et socialiste> would help the regional organisation in many ways during the next two years of its (FLNKS’s) presidency. However, his address, as covered by Daily Post, makes it quite clear that for FLNKS, Independence in New Caledonia is Kanak Independence, not France entering into the MSG inside a New Caledonian Trojan horse. Wamytan reiterates Fr. Walter Lini’s vision that Vanuatu cannot be free and independent until the whole of Melanesia is free and independent. France is not Melanesia: Kanaky is.

The Vanuatu Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade, Ham Lini, performed a custom “face cleaning” ceremony of national apology last Sunday towards the Deputy Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea Leo Dion, following recent events in Port Moresby with the unexpected visit of the Vanuatu Foreign Minister, Alfred Carlot, to PNG. The apology was accepted, said Radio Vanuatu News, in conformation with the spirit of unity which has prevailed during the MSG anniversary celebrations. It was considered important because the Prime Minister Sato Kilman was not aware of Carlot’s visit to PNG, necessitating PNG PM Peter O’Neill’s statement that Carlot had lied in what he told the press.

Prime Minister Sato Kilman opened the Shefa Community Transformation and Healing of the Land Conference of the Efate Presbytery by extolling the importance of “genuine” business investment and development to improve the lives of the people. Furthermore, close and regular dialogue with genuine development partners is important in face of the many challenges which confront the whole world. Government has a duty to understand and meet the needs of its people, together with supplying the development needs of the country, economical and social, with due regard to custom and the Christian faith of Vanuatu, VBTC News reported Kilman as saying. Land can become a blessing if we manage it well, he said, but it can also become a curse if we neglect or damage it.

Vanuatu’s Ambassador to the European Union, Roy Mickey Joy, has declared that the work of the Embassy is to provide consular assistance to citizens following Vanuatu law and the countries in which he works. Vanuatu’s EU Embassy was mentioned in media reports last week following Ambassador Joy’s request for clearance for the private jet carrying the two so-called Sakens to land in Port Moresby to meet Vanuatu Foreign Minister Alfred Carlot. It will be recalled that cancellation of Vu Anh Quan Saken’s passport was ordered by the Prime Minister last year. The ambassadorial “clarification” was covered by Radio Vanuatu News.

The two Bulgarians who allegedly broke into the ATM of a Port Vila bank recently
have been remanded until next week
when their case will be heard after court sittings resume.

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Vanuatu daily news digest | 27 January 2013

Prime Minister Sato Kilman has not made any statement concerning Foreign Minister Alfred Carlot or Pascal Anh Quan Saken through the mainstream media in Vanuatu yet. This comes about when their partnership is the most discussed topic in the media and nakamals of the capital. Opposition Leader Edward Natapei, in the Daily Post on Friday, insisted the PM terminate Carlot. Natapei sees Carlot’s involvement with Saken as detrimental to Vanuatu’s international credibility.

VBTC News this weekend carried a complaint by Immigration officers over the establishment of a new company, Pacific Migration Consultants, by the DG of Internal Affairs, George Bogiri. The Principal Immigration Officer, François Batick said the new company will be able to earn over Vt 200 million annually.

The President of the Vanuatu Vietnamese Association, Dinh Van Than, says Pascal Anh Quan Saken was born in Vietnam and lived there until he was 11 years old. He then moved to France for 15 years and became a French citizen, he says in this weekend’s Daily Post. “It was a lie that Pascal Saken went to school in Port Vila as I would have known him. Instead Pascal Saken went on to live in Bangkok to this day”, Than told Daily Post. Dinh Van Than was born in Vanuatu in 1944 and has lived here ever since. Foreign Minister Alfred Carlot had told freelance journalist Hilaire Bule, when the Phocea was boarded in July last year, how he came to know Pascal Anh Quan. The Minister replied “While you were still playing in your jungle [on Pentecost], I was going to school with him in town.” Than says Saken did not attend any school, in town, and it is a lie to say he did.

Pascal Anh Quan Saken sees himself as the deputy head of the Vanuatu European Union embassy in Brussels. He claims he still holds a valid Vanuatu diplomatic passport, even though the Prime Minister’s Office cancelled it and advised the Commissioner of Police that the passport was cancelled last year. Radio Vanuatu News yesterday morning carried a report based on an interview Pascal Anh Quan gave Radio New Zealand International on Friday. Saken claims to have been the victim of bad publicity while in Papua New Guinea and says that reports are all untrue and just aimed at damaging his reputation. He is still working hard for Vanuatu, he says. He is hoping to work more with Europe and the United States to build the structure of his country, Vanuatu. Saken says he cannot come to Vanuatu because his sailing boat Phocea is still being held by the Government on suspicion of carrying arms or drugs. He says he has heard all the allegations against him. While in PNG, he could not meet the US Ambassador as planned, but hopes to go back to PNG next month. He has also heard his passport was revoked by PM Kilman last September, but he believes the passport he holds is still valid.

The Citizenship Commission has announced that adult “adoption” does not entitle the adoptee to Vanuatu citizenship. The Citizenship Commission will continue to expect new citizen applicants to have resided in Vanuatu for more than ten years. Read the rest of this entry »


Family business: George Bogiri awards himself immigration visa contract worth vt200,000,000+ per year

Director General of the Ministry of Internal Affairs George Bogiri has just awarded himself a highly lucrative but almost unpublicised contract to take over the processing of Vanuatu’s immigration visas. An advertisement appeared in the Daily Post last week (see below) announcing the change. The contract is expected to earn a company owned by George Bogiri more than Vt 200 million per year.

Advertisement in Vanuatu Daily Post announcing new visa application process, 12 January 2013

According to the advert, a new “person” will handle all visa applications; a Gmail address and a digicel mobile phone number is given. No company name is listed, nor is the name of this “person”. A bit of digging has revealed that the name of the company given this contract is Pacific Migration Consultants, registered at VFSC in the name of George Bogiri. His daughter Rebekah Bogiri, recently returned from studying in China, is running the business. The Department of Immigration ceased directly accepting visa applications on Thursday last week.

An anonymous business source says, “we have met with Rebekah the ‘Agent’. It was clearly evident that she did not understand the Immigration process, couldn’t answer our queries and in most instances said that we should forward our queries to her Dad or to François Batick.” Our source says that Rebekah told them that this new arrangement was put in place by her father and the Principal Immigration Officer François Batick as a “matter of National Security”. DG Bogiri is already quite cosy with Immigration staff, as other posts on this blog have revealed.

George Bogiri was reappointed as DG on December 3, 2012 by Prime Minister Sato Kilman. “When you signed the contract you accepted to work with the government, you do not accept to serve your own interest, [or] your family… you agree to serve the people and the Nation,” PM Kilman told the DGs at their reappointment ceremony, reported Daily Post at the time.

The Immigration Act does allow for Vanuatu’s Principal Immigration Officer (PIO) to appoint an agent to process visas; however, this contract has never been put out to public tender, as is legally required for all Government contracts over Vt5 million.

The Department of Immigration comes under the direct control of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, making this both a massive conflict of interest and blatant act of corruption by DG Bogiri. According to the 2009 national census, there are about 3,000 foreign nationals residing in Vanuatu, and the “Agent Service Fee” that Pacific Migration Consultants charges just to collate visa applications for processing by Govt is vt50,000, as Daily Post reported earlier this week. Just for processing 3,000 residence visas, Pacific Migration Consultants is likely to earn vt150 million in one year alone. And this is without taking into consideration the many thousands of visitor visas as well as other visas of other classes that are given out every year.

A visitor visa, previously vt3,375, is now vt3,600, plus Pacific Migration Consultants’ “service fee” of vt25,000, a 747% cost increase. This is likely to have a negative effect on tourist arrivals into Vanuatu. All of Pacific Migration Consultants’ fees are listed in the document below.

Pacific Migration Consultants Vanuatu visa application service fees schedule

(Click on image above to download full PDF version)

Department of Immigration staff, like the general public, have not been adequately informed of this new system. No advance notice appears to have been given to the general public, nor to anyone in Government. Our sources claim that VIPA and the Prime Minister’s Office were also not informed about this new arrangement and are said to be furious. Quite aside from the explicit corruption, it is yet another impediment to foreign investment in Vanuatu, and a massive impost for foreign spouses of ni-Vanuatu citizens.

Another source says that George Bogiri prepared the above newspaper advertisement, had Batick sign it, then delivered it personally to the Daily Post office, where he paid for it as well.


Corrupt immigration officers scamming incoming business travellers

Immigration Officers are illegally charging a Vt 10,000 fee for passengers arriving in Vanuatu for business purposes, it has been alleged in Daily Post. A regular business traveller from New Zealand was charged this illegal fee. In response, Principal Immigration Officer François Batick asks for proof of any payments and for the people concerned to come to his office and identify any officer involved. Batick confirmed the practice is illegal.

Caretaker Prime Minister Sato Kilman is to represent Vanuatu at the United Nations General Assembly in New York at the end of the month, announces Radio Vanuatu News. He will travel with Foreign Minister Alfred Carlot.

Vanuatu kava is welcome in China, says Read the rest of this entry »