wikileaks ico  Home papers ico  Cables mirror and Afghan War Diary privacy policy  Privacy
IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
08MUMBAI367 2008-07-29 14:53:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Consulate Mumbai
Cable title:  

R VISAS -- FRAUD IN THE NAME OF GOD

Tags:   CVIS SOCI KCRM KFRD IN 
pdf how-to read a cable
VZCZCXRO8640
PP RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHCN
DE RUEHBI #0367/01 2111453
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P R 291453Z JUL 08
FM AMCONSUL MUMBAI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6467
INFO RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 7706
RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI 1832
RUEHCI/AMCONSUL KOLKATA 1637
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 0799
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 0615
RUEHGO/AMEMBASSY RANGOON 0010
RUEHCN/AMCONSUL CHENGDU 0001
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0119
RUEHGP/AMEMBASSY SINGAPORE 0126
RHMFIUU/DHS IP BP WASH DC
RHMFIUU/FBI WASHINGTON DC
RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI 1602
					UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 MUMBAI 000367 

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR CA/FPP AND CA/VO/F/P
POSTS FOR FRAUD PREVENTION MANAGERS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CVIS SOCI KCRM KFRD IN
SUBJECT: R VISAS -- FRAUD IN THE NAME OF GOD

REF: A) 08 CHENNAI 149, B) 07 CHENNAI 487, C) 07 KOLKATA 73, D) CHENNAI'S R-1 HANDBOOK 2008



1. (SBU) SUMMARY. Post Mumbai detects significant fraud among
applicants for Religious Worker (R-1) visas. Mumbai refused
nearly 52% of all applicants seeking R-1 religious worker visas
in CY 2007. Following aggressive FPU investigations in Gujarat
and Maharashtra States, CY2008 R-1 visa refusals to date have
climbed to nearly 70%. Although visa fraud is not confined to
any one religion, as Chennai and Kolkata noted in refs A and C,
Sikhs and Tibetan refugees have the highest percentage of
religious visa applicants with confirmed fraud. Post recorded
negligible Hindu or Catholic-centric fraud. Using all tools at
its disposal, the FPU thwarted fraudulent applicants purportedly
from Sikh and Buddhist organizations from obtaining visas.
Fraud occurred both in India and the United States with fraud
involving primarily U.S. organizations the most difficult to
detect. Current standard fraud prevention practices at Post, in
cooperation with New Delhi, Kolkata and under the leadership of
FPU Chennai, are highly effective in preventing fraud in a
majority of R-1 visa cases. DHS and CA/FPP have provided
valuable support in investigating real and bogus religious
organizations in the United States. Technology tools, such as
Watch Phrase and Text Search, have proved invaluable in
combating fraud. END SUMMARY.



2. (SBU) In CY 2007, Post adjudicated 694 R-1 visas and refused
over 52%. In CY 2008, Post has adjudicated 479 R-1 visas to
date and refused over 69%. Of these, 30% were found permanently
ineligible to enter the United States for willful
misrepresentation of material facts. In addition, Post has
refused 35% of the 52 R-2 visa applications in CY 2008. These
numbers reflect a consistent trend in refusal percentages for
the last five years.



3. (U) Post has a unique blend of religious applicant sources,
including several Swaminarayan sects in Gujarat; major
International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) temples
in Mumbai and Gujarat; and Catholic and Christian missionaries
in Mumbai and in Goa. Post's R-1/R-2 applicant pool is roughly
one third Hindu, one third Sikh, with the rest split among
Catholics, Buddhists and Muslims.



--------------------------


SIKH PRIESTS OR INTENDING IMMIGRANTS


--------------------------





4. (SBU) Post refused over 90% of Sikh "priests" seeking R-1
visas, by far the most egregious fraud pattern at Post. (Note:
9 FAM 41.58 recognizes chiefly religious workers who have been
ordained or who have taken sacred vows. A Sikh Granthi is not a
priest and has not taken vows, but for all intents and purposes,
his job is very "priestly." Granthis are the closest Sikhs have
to people doing R-1 eligible work. There are more varieties of
religious worker than the FAM has accounted for. End note.) In
almost every case, applicants had no claim to residency within
Post's consular district. These applicants usually came in
threes and all were "Ragis" or Sikh religious singers; were born
in North India; had passports issued in North India; and usually
paid their visa processing fees in a northern Indian state.
Examples include BMB 2007330904 0003/4/5 and BMB 2007337569
0002/3/4.



5. (U) In some cases, the fraud originated solely from the
applicants themselves, without collusion from anyone outside of
India (BMB2007341968 1/2/3 and 20072883430013-15; 2007 304 778
001/2). Checks with the alleged sponsoring organizations in the
United States confirmed that the letters were fraudulent. The
American organizations' management and trustees were uniformly
angered by the fraud and wished to take action against the
touts. In other cases, the Indian Sikh gurudwara itself or its
officials aided and abetted fraudulent visa applicants. For
example, two groups of 3 Sikhs claimed they were employed with
Gurudwara Akali Dal or with Gurudwara Guru Singh Sabha, both in
Mumbai. FPU field investigation trips to the two temples
confirmed active collusion by a temple employee.



6. (U) The most difficult Sikh religious worker fraud to
investigate usually involved collusion and fraud from both
Indian and U.S. sides. Ruse calls to the Indian "employers" and

MUMBAI 00000367 002 OF 004


the sponsoring religious organizations in the U.S. were answered
by a friend or a visa "consultant" who was coached and prepared
to provide supporting information. In one case a Lexis/Nexis
search revealed that phone numbers submitted by 3 R1 visa
applicants (BMB 2007331 221 9/10/11) were last registered to an
insurance company. When questioned, one applicant confessed
that a "visa consultant" provided false documents from the
United States and India to support their cases. In other cases,
(BMB 20073309100011, 20073309160009, 20073309170001), letters
were forged on letterheads that closely resembled those of
legitimate U.S. organizations. Visa touts in the United States
may have worked in collusion with agents in India. Post
conducted several field fraud investigations in Maharashtra
State on October 12 and November 6, 2007. All 18 cases
investigated were found to be fraudulent. The FPU spoke with
representatives of 11 Sikh Gurudwaras from which applicants
claimed to have come. Almost universally, gurudwara officials
were shocked that someone had appropriated or forged their
letterhead for mala fide purposes. In all cases, Post collected
letterhead and signature exemplars for later use and encouraged
organizations to call ahead when sending bona fide applicants.
Post maintains and can share lists of gurudwaras in the district
and the names of their legitimate employees.



--------------------------


BAD MONK, FAKE MONK: BUDDHIST FRAUD


--------------------------





7. (SBU) Most Buddhist clergy seen in Mumbai are Tibetans.
They hold refugee status in India and they cannot hold Indian
citizenship. Because male Tibetans usually cannot work in
India, monasteries are a welcome alternative to poverty. Not
all monks are motivated by poverty, however. Embassy Kathmandu
uncovered a "bad" monk who attempted to set up a human
trafficking network from Nepal to the United States (ref D); a
similar smaller case was recently exposed in Chennai (ref D).
In India, many displaced Tibetan Buddhists reside in colonies
established by the Indian government. Residents there
frequently establish monasteries. Post has found that
applicants from these Tibetan colonies are frequently
unqualified either for R-1 or B1-B2 visas.



8. (SBU) Post refused visas to more than 67% of "Tibetan monks"
who applied for R-1 visas in FY 2008. Fraud involving
applicants masquerading as legitimate Buddhist monks originated
from both the United States and India. The office of the Dalai
Lama can verify the monks and FPU uses this resource routinely.
The Dalai Lama's office is very responsive.



9. (SBU) In some cases, applicants colluded with sources
outside of India (Case # BMB 20080080/002-006 and
20080181290007/0008/0009/0010). They had elaborate documents
patterned on legitimate documents previously sent from the
United States. Biometrics showed one applicant was refused
previously in New Delhi when he applied a year ago
misrepresenting that he worked in a different monastery. The
U.S. organizations subsequently denied inviting the applicants
to work in the United States. The fake letterheads and visa
application forms listed false phone numbers to circumvent a
line of inquiry. A reverse lookup of the telephone numbers for
the Indian monasteries and a text search on their addresses
revealed that separate applicants had used the same address and
phone numbers for their Indian monasteries.



10. (SBU) The most complex cases involved fraud originating in
the United States. In some cases, investigation of the U.S.
sponsor revealed the alleged temple phone number was a residence
or a business establishment (BMB 200803118410, 20083118411,
20083118412 20080311851.) ADIS records showed previous
applicants issued visas to go to same organization had extensive
overstays, both on B1 and R1 status. Moreover, the sponsoring
organization had no verifiable track record of being a credible
outfit on any public database (BMB 200733752600 10/11/12/13).
Lexis/Nexis showed a physical address that belonged to unrelated
people, while Dun and Bradstreet records had no record of the
name or address or phone number of the organizations. Websites
provided by the inviting organizations led to "free park" pages,
which had nothing to do with an independent organization.

MUMBAI 00000367 003 OF 004





--------------------------


HINDU SECTS AND SWAMIS


--------------------------





11. (SBU) Recent CA guidance clarified that Hindu temple
carvers and architects are considered religious workers (ref D).
Temple concrete pourers and temple plasterers (including
craftsmen who sculpt in plaster) are not. Temple cooks, or
pachakahas, prepare food in Hindu temples. They are Brahmins,
and they cook offerings for the gods. They typically inherit
their jobs from their fathers who did it before them. They are
not ordained, and they do not take sanctified vows. But their
food for the gods is an essential element of worship. Their
work is part of habitual religious practice. Their eligibility
for the R1 is currently valid (ref D). Consular officers at
post do, however, often experience difficulty assessing these
workers' bona fides.



12. (U) In October 2007, Post conducted a field investigation in
the state of Gujarat to catalogue and verify the existence of
various temples of the Swami Narayan sect of Hinduism. Before
the investigation, Post contacted trustees of the Yogi Divine
Society in Sokhada, Gujarat and the Swaminarayan temple
organization headquartered in Kalupur and Vadtal, Gujarat State,
to confirm procedures for verifying bona fide applicants. A
large and legitimate branch of ISKCON also operates out of
Mumbai.



13. (SBU) Post maintains one nominally Hindu organization in
CCD's watchphrase tool: the cunning and adaptive Gaudiya
Vaisnava Society (GVS), also known as the Sri Ram Temple, in
Milwaukee, WI. Post Kolkata had previously conducted an
investigation of the organization in West Bengal and uncovered a
major fraudulent operation (ref C). While in 2007 all Posts in
India issued visas to R-1 and R-2 applicants from this
organization, many recent applicants were refused thanks to
Kolkata's investigation and DHS/ICE reports.




--------------------------


CATHOLICS AND PROTESTANTS


--------------------------





14. (U) Post's Christian applicants came in one of two
varieties: priests from Catholic parishes across the district
and Protestants. Catholics constitute over 90% of R-1
applicants and mainly come from the city of Mumbai and the
neighboring state of Goa. Their supporting documents were
always inclusive and the strict hierarchy of the church made
impersonation difficult and imposters rare. Well established
procedures and paperwork accompany applicants. Post's excellent
relations with Catholic parishes in western India helped to
quickly clarify any questions that occasionally arose in a R-1
Catholic applicant's case. Post encountered no Catholic-centric
fraud in CY 2007.



--------------------------


TOOLS OF THE TRADE


--------------------------





15. (SBU) Post uses comprehensive methods to verify the bona
fides of U.S. religious organizations and the signatures on
invitation letters. These include PIERS records to compare
American passport application signatures with invitation letter
signatures, and using LexisNexis to verify the existence and
whereabouts of American-based sponsors. The verification of
India-based organizations, supporting websites, and all
documents purporting to support a religious application are a
critical part of all R-1 and R-2 adjudications.



16. (SBU) CA's Office of Fraud Prevention Programs (FPP) should
be lauded for its contribution towards fighting religious worker
visa fraud at Post Mumbai. CA/FPP has given Posts enhanced
technological tools that aid fraud busting. For example, CCD
tools such as Watch Phrase Management and Text Search have been
extraordinarily valuable in exposing religious worker fraud
patterns at Post. Access to databases such as Lexis/Nexis has

MUMBAI 00000367 004 OF 004


been critical in evaluating religious organizations in the U.S.
that sponsor R-1 applicants. Several successful examples cited
in the body of this cable were direct outcomes from use of these
technologies. CA/FPP has played a key role in investigating
invitations from the United States. In many instances, it has
determined them to be fraudulent. Most importantly, the CA/FPP
has been a valuable resource to detect and deter visa fraud and
to synergize fraud prevention activities. Weaving investigative
findings from different databases and the internet with data
mined from the CCD, and cross referencing that with ADIS records
and telephone verifications, CA/FPP's Post liaison synthesized
data from multiple sources into comprehensive reports that Post
can act upon. Post could not have uncovered the full extent of
the R-1 fraud pattern at Post without the innovative stateside
investigations by CA/FPP.



17. (SBU) COMMENT: Although religious visas constitute a small
fraction of the overall applications received at Post Mumbai,
the R visa category constitutes the highest percentage of
fraudulent applicants. The FPU in Mumbai, in collaboration with
other FPUs in India and CA/FPP, will continue to pay particular
attention to R-1 applicants and use the excellent resources and
tools available and the team's experience to combat future
religious visa fraud. END COMMENT.
FOLMSBEEPA