Vanuatu daily news digest | 11 February 2013

Last year over 600 people from China or Hong Kong people achieved special investor status and now do not need a work permit to work in Vanuatu, Port Vila MP Ralph Regenvanu points out on VBTC News this morning. He questions the set-up of the Hong Kong Permanent Residence Visa scheme by VFSC and VIPA. If such people are awarded permanent residence status by Government, says Regenvanu, they could enter Vanuatu to work in shops and on building sites as they won’t need a work permit for any category of employment. Employment in stores and on building sites has previously been reserved for ni-Vanuatu. The Minister of Internal Affairs, Toara Daniel, signed an order in January permitting such work-permit-free employment, and backdated it by more than a year. MP Regenvanu questions why, when the Hong Kong Investment Programme was launched by the Government, was it was not explained that anyone could come and work in Vanuatu, said Regenvanu? The DG of Internal Affairs, George Bogiri (who we thought had been asked to resign by his Minister) said the program was set up because the Prime Minister wanted to raise more revenue due to an expected budgetary shortfall. “What do you really want?” Regenvanu asks the Government. “Are you trying to give a legitimacy to foreigners who have been working against the labour laws since 2011? What about work for ni-Vanuatu who have a legal priority?”

Australian organised crime figure Mick Gatto has been linked to Port Vila online betting agency BetJack, reported the Australian media over the weekend. Gatto is known in Australia as the inspiration for a character in a hit TV series about Melbourne’s criminal underworld, Underbelly. He was charged with the suspected murder of a hitman in 2004 but was acquitted. More background about his recent tax troubles here and here, and his attempts at public relations here. Gatto denies any involvement in BetJack, though as the story we linked to yesterday points out, the secrecy provisions of Vanuatu’s tax haven make Gatto’s claim impossible to verify.

While on the topic of Vanuatu’s tax haven and the kind of people it attracts, from New Zealand comes word of some new arrivals to Port Vila who have skipped out on their NZ tax obligations. “After leaving behind a string of collapsed businesses which owe nearly [NZ]$2.5 million to the New Zealand taxman”, says the New Zealand Herald, Ross Harold Fitches and Christine Angela Fitches appear to have escaped to Port Vila. The couple are on a NZ Govt list of people who are banned from running a company there. We wonder if the Fitches have made any application to VIPA, and if so, if VIPA is aware of their background.

Ten scholarship holders for the University of New Caledonia were refused permission to continue their studies this year when they turned up at the Scholarships Office on 28 January, Daily Post reveals this morning in information from the Vanuatu Anti-Corruption Commission (VACC). The students’ names had already appeared on the list of successful students following 2012 exams. The list, however, was modified by the Minister. VACC sees this as a “direct interference” in their studies and future prospects.

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Vanuatu daily news digest | 9 February 2013

Port Vila MP Willie Jimmy says he will appeal the striking out of his electoral petition against Prime Minister Sato Kilman, VBTC Radio News reports Jimmy saying at a press conference yesterday. He says the Electoral Commission has allowed an offence to go unheeded. Jimmy says that a debt to the state has been sanctioned in his constituency, and that he will appeal yesterday’s judgement. The radio news story did not say whether an appeal can be allowed in such a matter or if he has to submit a different case.

The Independent’s ‘smoking gun’ for its story last week on PM Kilman receiving USD200,000 from Pascal Anh Quan Saken is an email to that paper from Saken saying “Bro! Never! But I have sent lots of money to Madame Goiset, in order to pay the legal bills of mr PM sato kilman, during his fight against the motion of ‘non confidence’ in April; 2011!! Warm regards”. The email contains typos and grammatical errors similar to those found in other documents by Pascal Anh Quan Saken. The Independent also refers to a series of emails believed to have been sent from Brussels where Anh Quan claims he financed the restructuring of the Vanuatu Embassy there. Elsewhere he claims to have carried out this work after graduating from the Charles Henry Saken University at Pango. He wants to restructure the Vanuatu United Nations mission. He is working as a volunteer. More such fabrications are expected in the Phoceable future as the present Government continues to conceal a matter which has destroyed all of its credibility—making diplomats of dubious people with hidden agendas.

Meantime, The Independent has more news of Sakens falling out. Last year, ‘Mme. 15%’ Thi Tham Goiset was charged with forgery contrary to section 140 and uttering forged documents contrary to section 141 of the Penal Code Act. Both charges carry a penalty of up to 10 years behind bars. Furthermore, last year Mr Saken filed a criminal case against Mme. Goiset alleging the Vanuatu diplomat forged his signature so she could transfer the ownership of a vehicle belonging to Anh Quan to herself. An Independent newspaper investigation finds that this criminal case is still pending at the State Prosecutor’s Office. And now MP Robert Bohn Jr. of Vanuatu Maritime Services Ltd says the owner of the Phocea has contacted them to ask for registration of the Phocea on the Vanuatu Shipping Registry, Bohn says on the front page of today’s Daily Post. Might VMS Ltd advise the Commissioner of Police on the identity of the owner in order to assist lawyer Less John Napuati with his prosecution ‘in rem’ of the vessel? This would help the Trans-National Crime Unit by clearing the name of the real owner and releasing further information about the illegal documentation (on which VMS Ltd must now be clear) which has bedevilled the Phocea since its arrival in Vanuatu.

Today’s Daily Post carries an interesting letter from the Santo Chamber of Commerce pointing out how nationally desirable it should be for any new airport to be built in Luganville rather than Port Vila. It makes no silly reference to 747s and points out how an airport could be built without having to depend on patronage-seeking investors.

Lastly, Daily Post also carries a full page story on George Bogiri and his conflict of interest in Pacific Migration Consultants, under the banner of Transparency International Vanuatu. Eagle-eyed readers will observe that it quotes extensively from the story we published on the matter, but attributes all quotes to the Daily Post. Bigfala shame, Daily Post and TIV—credit where credit is due, please.


Vanuatu daily news digest | 3 February 2013

The Supreme Court will give its ruling early next week on Willie Jimmy’s petition contesting PM Sato Kilman’s eligibility to stand in last year’s election. Political maneuvering is going ahead full swing ahead of the court ruling. RNZI reports that some Government MPs have already been lured to the Opposition in advance of the ruling.

Daily Post carries a story that quotes a former registered migration agent from Australia now residing here who says the fees for Australian migration agents’ services quoted by George Bogiri are misleading. Former agent Robert Rokvic also points out that the any move to outsource Government services could lead to the “opening up of the flood gates” for other ministries to use private agents to collect other government fees and taxes. In Australia, migration agents must be registered with the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority, which provides regulation of their activities. Says their website: “Registered Migration Agents are bound by a Code of Conduct and are required to have an in-depth knowledge of Australian migration law and procedure and meet high professional and ethical standards.”

Bogiri has had a lot of media attention but has completely side-stepped the issue of his personal conflict of interest in Pacific Migration Consultants. Both the Constitution and the Leadership Code Act are crystal clear on this; leaders are obliged not to use their office for personal gain, and they must disclose any business interests in any matters where they may have a conflict of interest.

Radio New Zealand International reports: “Pascal Anh Quan Saken has not returned to Vanuatu since leaving last July before he could be questioned in relation to the 75 metre yacht. It was raided and seized by police, immigration and customs officers on suspicion of passport fraud and drugs trading. All criminal matters relating to the Phocea have been dropped but the Ports Authority [sic] says the vessel is unable to leave the country after it was confirmed that it does not have Maltese registration. Mr Saken says his boat is being confiscated so that officials can charge high berthing fees. He also accuses Vanuatu police of piracy when raiding the Phocea, including wearing shoes on the yacht’s Persian rug interior.”

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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.


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.


Vanuatu daily news digest | 23 November 2012

There was no new post yesterday, but the Opposition’s committed MPs hold key to political stability in the Daily Post of yesterday’s date was telling. Opposition Leader Edward Natapei is “not confident the current 29 MPs will provide the lasting political stability the government craves.” MPs failing to honour agreements to which they have committed themselves are the greatest concern, he says, as MPs up to this week have switched sides regularly.

Both Daily Post and Radio Vanuatu News give the short listing of senior police officers being considered for the Police Commissioner position.

Allegations that police personnel have been involved in lease purchase arrangements for their government quarters are denied by outgoing Internal Affairs DG George Bogiri who denies any knowledge of such a scheme. It would, however, possibly explain the dereliction of numbers of such houses in the Independence Park area. Such uniformed personnel recently packed the Lands Department over the issue. The Transparency International Vanuatu page in Daily Post today has the Lands DG’s response to recent accusations against the Lands Records Office, answers which will do little to restore public confidence in the Ministry and Department of Lands.

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