How Ukrainians "force” the door to West by faking Moldovan passports

Foto: CIJM
Author: Anastasia Cucuruz, Ghenadie Brega (Republica Moldova), Elena Cernâșova, Elena Vasina (Ucraina)
18/04/2016 35366

The economic crisis in Moldova and Ukraine on one hand, and the salaries offered by the European market on the other hand, are the main reasons for which people go abroad.  The gate was opened to the west for Moldovans who regained Romanian citizenship and then benefited from a liberalized visa regime. However, Ukrainians use different schemes to obtain Moldovan passports that would help them to reach the EU. As long as there is a demand, there are many "offers". Some of them resort to falsification of documents from archives to certify the bessarabian origin of the applicants. Others counterfeited Soviet passports. The schemes are implemented with the involvement of officials. For instance, in 2014, shortly after Moldova gained liberalized visa regime with the EU, the officials found the involvement of Moldovan officials in such "businesses". The case has not reached the court yet. According to lawyers, mild penalties “give way” to frauds. In this context, the experts recommend the authorities to review the legislation.

Having Moldovan roots, it is very easy to get the Moldovan passport. This procedure takes about a year and will cost only 25 euros at the current rate in Ukraine. This was reported in the Moldovan Consulate in Odesa, which, in particular, deals with issues of nationality of all the South of our country, that is, the Odesa, Mykolayiv and Kherson regions. The help of intermediaries significantly increases the cost of the Moldovan passport, but allows you to bypass a small, but significant obstacle - lack of blood ties with Moldova.

It should be noted that the number of intermediaries involved exclusively legal services, helping to collect and arrange all the necessary documents and even disagreeing surcharge to circumvent the law. So, calling one of the ads and ask for help in the registration of citizenship, but noting that there are no Moldovan roots, the mediator said that they are not involved in this sort of thing, because they are illegal. Such agencies are in the market for a long time; they value their reputation and earn their bread honestly. The mediator explained a passport can be obtained, if someone in the family had lived in the former Moldovan or Romanian territory - from the Dniester to Romania. The question: Is it possible to somehow circumvent this condition, the intermediary of representative company said no, because the information is verified at the consulate, but for the money do not want to expose themselves or a client. 

There is a variety of proposals of such services on the market. Such information mainly posts through the popular social networks, where intermediaries do not hesitate to offer to make a fake passport. The pricing policy is also very different - from 2,5 thousand UAH to 2 thousand euros. Also differ in terms of manufacturing - some intermediaries promise to "do everything" for a few days, while others - for 8 months. Such polar terms and price may be related to the fact that in this niche work and a lot of scams that take the money as a deposit and do not fulfill the promise. It is clear that those, who planned to make a fake passport, will hardly complain to law enforcement authorities. Here each earns as best he can.

For example, we wrote off in one of the social networks with the person, who proposes to make a fake passport. However, he warns that the meeting is not possible, asks for his work a small sum of money and promises to keep within a short time. It arouses suspicion.

Discussion with the man who explains all conditions

This intermediary in detail explains the whole procedure, but also the cost of his services is much higher - 2,000 euros, the term is also rather big - a few months. However, he did offer to make not Moldovan, but Romanian passport - Ukraine has a repatriation program, and proving Moldovan roots are automatically covered under this program. The intermediary promises to help with oath.

The man tells us that both the Romanian and Moldovan passport cost 2,000 euros. He recommends the Romanian passport

Here you can easily find another intermediary in social networks. He also reveals the scheme - makes fake Moldovan roots, and then you can get a passport without any problems.

The intermediary promises to prove Moldovan origins on paper, though we are not

With some of the intermediaries, who offer their services to produce, in fact, false passports, we were able to be contacted by phone. So, the young man offered the following scam: he promised to make a Moldovan passport, on the grounds that the passport has been, but was lost. For their services the scammer asked a symbolic 20 euros as a deposit, giving his account number. And the document itself would have resulted in the amount of 300 euros. To start the procedure for obtaining the coveted document, you need to transfer money to the intermediary, the name in Ukrainian language and Latin script, as well as photographs. So the process and start. The young man assured that doing paperwork directly with Moldova, and a certificate from the archive is not important, even a birth certificate will be present Moldovan.

Schemes involving civil servants

Schemes proposed by intermediaries would not function without authorties’ involvement. Shortly, after in April 2014, our country  was granted liberalized visa regime with the EU, INTERPOL revealed criminal machinations of obtaining illegal Moldovan citizenship by Ukrainians. One of the schemes that used Ukrainian citizens to obtain biometric passports along with Moldovans, related to the general Soviet past of the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. According to the National Centre for the Fight against Corruption, several officials have created a "business", offering biometric passports to foreigners - they provided to foreigners Moldovan documents with personal data of citizens, who have emigrated.

According to the scheme, the applicant reported about the alleged loss of the Soviet passport, after which officials falsified records of official Soviet documents, glue pictures of customers faces in their youth with the series and passport numbers of former Soviet citizens, who have emigrated.

The scheme was identified by law enforcement authorities in July 2014, when the «Registru» was informed by Interpol about the case of a citizen, having false documents of other countries, including Moldova. In turn, «Registru» informed the National Centre for the Fight against Corruption.

August 1st of the same year, police conducted several searches in the premises of the Department of Registration and Documentation of Population Riscani sector, Chisinau, and residential area commander. Then it was discovered more than 500 Soviet passports. Officers from the anti-corruption center confirmed that officials used the old passports, which were subjected to liquidation for the forgery of passports of the Republic of Moldova for those individuals, who did not have the right to Moldovan citizenship.

In this case, two criminal cases for abuse of power and forgery of official documents were initiated. Subsequently, in April 2015, six people, including the head of the Secretariat and the Office for Migration and Political Refuge have been detained. They are suspected of abuse of office and forgery of public documents in the interest of criminal groups.

According to the Prosecutor's Office, the Registration Service officers in collusion with the intermediate people and representatives of the Bureau of Migration and Refuge of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Moldova issued biometric passports, falsifying the identity of the beneficiaries.

According to data provided by the National Centre for the fight against corruption, it is not only ordinary citizens of Ukraine, but also the people, who has been convicted and are wanted by Interpol for tax evasion, drug trafficking, embezzlement, the organization of criminal groups.

Then there were found not less than 35 people seized counterfeit documents. For those, who will be found guilty, faces up to 10 years in prison.

"We know that all these people paid 10 thousand euros for each passport. Currently, the investigation is carried out. I think that within two months will be started the proceedings. A similar pattern was found in Comrat. In this case we are talking about 14 people, who have benefited in this way - only one of them had a false identity. Given that they did not change the personality, pay only 3 thousand euros. The case was sent to court of Comrat in February 2016 ", - told the officer of the Center for the fight against corruption, in charge of criminal cases related to the falsification of passports, Oleg Kryshmar. Also, law enforcement officers uncovered another scheme that allowed fraudsters to obtain Moldovan citizenship.

 Recently, the General Prosecutor's Office completed the investigation and sent the criminal case, accusing the judge of the Strășeni court Vasile Rusu, in the "imposition knowingly illegal decision". From the evidence gathered by the Prosecutor's Office, October 23, 2012 judge Vasile Rusu approved the application submitted for 11 citizens of the Russian Federation and Ukraine on the birth and marriage of relatives in Moldova. It raised suspicions that the judge decided, based on unauthenticated copies of certificates of marriage and birth, making it possible to obtain citizenship of Moldova or Romania to foreigners. According to prosecutors, these circumstances "seriously damaged the image of the judicial system and law at the international level". Although the investigation was completed and the case sent to the court, the prosecutor in charge of the case, Viorel Morar said that so far there has not been any court session. At the moment, the magistrate Diana Cristian, which was handed over the case, said she abstains from it, and is now being considered for transfer of the case. It should be noted that if the court finds Vasile Rusu guilty, he can get from three to seven years' imprisonment with deprivation of the right to occupy certain positions or engage in certain activities for up to 5 years.

What the law says in Ukraine and in the Republic of Moldova

What threatens the Ukrainians for the illegal acquisition of citizenship? Thus, according to the response to a formal request to the State Migration Service of Ukraine, the Ukrainian state has a principle of a single nationality, but the acquisition of a foreign citizenship for Ukrainian does not entail administrative or criminal responsibility. To date, the Ukrainian legislation does not require from the citizen, who voluntarily received foreign citizenship, supplying authorized state bodies application for their foreign citizenship. A person of citizenship information refers to the categories of personal data that is confidential.

According to the adviser head of the Chief of the National Police in Odesa region Vladyslav Serdyuk, the issue of forgery of passports is the subject from closed series: "Information is not enough. Anyone, who makes such certificates and use them, falls under Article 358 "Forgery of documents, seals, stamps and forms, their distribution, use of forged documents". All this, if is not official. If the official is engaged in it, it is Article 366 "Forgery". That's all. Nothing else is presenting. If in the case of initiation of the case is established the illegality of a passport, it is simply canceled. There is no responsibility for dual citizenship. To identify such facts should Migration Service and the Border Service and send materials to the police for verification".

As said the press-secretary of the Southern Regional Directorate Andriy Beloborodchenko, in 2015 the border guards in Odesa region revealed 102 cases of the use of false documents, this year - already 10 cases: "First of all, the professional qualities of our employees enable us to determine - a forged document or not, as well as devices that are available to the controller. Any document that is served by a citizen at the border crossing, it is being tested. If the document is in doubt at the supervisors, it is transferred to a more detailed inspection. If determined that the document is fake and the person at the same time enters the country, he is not passed on the territory of Ukraine, if a person leaves, delivers false documents, then we pass him to law enforcement agencies - the police, the SSU, depending on the situation".

Moldova Consulate in Odesa declined to comment on the situation: on the request was sent email and traditional mail, there was no response and by phone Assistant Consul first referred to the protection of personal data, and then completely hung up.

Forgery - "ridiculous" sanctions

As explained the lawyer Natalia Markocheva, "soft" sentence, in fact, free hands to fraudsters, who, according to Ukrainian legislation, for the use of false documents often have to pay a small fine. Having illegal passport of the citizen of Moldova, a person may be deprived of the Moldovan citizenship. However, in practice such cases are very few.

"In paragraph A of Part 1 of Article 23 of the Law on Citizenship of the Republic of Moldova on June 2, 2000 stipulates that a person, who has acquired citizenship by fraud, by providing false information or concealment of a material fact may be deprived of citizenship on the basis of the Moldovan presidential decree", - stressed Natalia Markocheva.

According to the Ministry of Information Technologies and Communications of the Republic of Moldova, for the past five years, 3,413 foreigners were granted citizenship of Moldova, of which 1 256 are Ukrainians. Ministry officials said that for the period from 2011 to 2015 were identified 216 cases of false identity of Moldovan citizens and 41 attempts to obtain Moldovan citizenship fraudulently. While Ministry officials claim that they reported to the Prosecutor General about all these cases, the statistics show the opposite. Since 2010 have been issued only two presidential decrees (of 27 March 2010 and of 15 January 2016) on deprivation of citizenship of the Republic of Moldova, on the basis of the decree.

Natalia Markocheva notes: "If we talk about bringing to responsibility, it all depends on who forge documents. Criminal liability of non-public and public faces of the criminal offense is different. So, for making the false information by public face in official documents, falsification of such documents in the Republic of Moldova (article 332 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Moldova "Forgery"), faces a fine of up to 20 thousand lei or imprisonment up to 2 years without the right to occupy certain positions from 2 up to 5 years. For the same actions, committed by a person of political appointees, it provided a more severe punishment - up to 40 thousand lei or imprisonment for a term of 1 year to 6 years, with disqualification to hold certain positions for a period from 5 to 10 years".

In Ukraine, the punishment is much softer. Thus, in accordance with Paragraph 1 of Article 366 of the Criminal Code, for committing forgery punishable by a fine up to 4250 UAH or deprivation of liberty for up to 3 years, with disqualification to hold certain positions for up to 3 years.

"If we talk about the forgery of documents by a person, which is not an official, the sanction will be even more softly; in the Criminal Code of Ukraine it is even "ridiculous". We should make changes to the legislation and to toughen punishment. So, for forging a document according to paragraph 1 of Article 358 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine provides a fine of up to 1700 UAH, or arrest for up to six months, or restriction of freedom for up to two years. In practice, however, the restriction of freedom is rarely applied by the courts in criminal offenses of little gravity", - the lawyer explains.

It should be noted that a person, who knowingly use a forged document, bears criminal responsibility. The penalty for the offense stipulated by part 4 of article 358 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine, and provides a fine of up to 850 UAH, or arrest up to six months, or restriction of liberty for up to two years. However, there are responsible for the entry into a criminal conspiracy with a person that is selling, in other words, fake documents, and two people have already defined as a group of individuals.

In this case, they are punishable by restriction or imprisonment for up to five years. In Moldova for the same article - manufacture, possession, sale or use of forged official documents - much more serious sanctions: a fine of 300 USD, namely 6 thousand lei, or about 7,400 UAH, or unpaid work for the community benefit for a period from 150 to 200 hours, or imprisonment for up to 2 years (article 361 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Moldova).

"In the criminal law of Moldova, in contrast to the Ukrainian, there is no concept of a" group of people by prior agreement". If the forgery was committed by two or more people, the punishment will be a fine of up to 600 USD, that is 12 thousand lei, or more than 14 thousand UAH, or unpaid work for the community benefit for a period from 180 to 240 hours or deprivation liberty for up to 5 years", - said Natalia Markocheva, stressing that the hands of fraudsters also plays a position of limitations, which in this case will expire in 2-3 years, for minor offenses. That is, says the lawyer, a person who acquired the citizenship of Moldova on the basis of forged documents, at the expiration of the limitation period shall be exempt from criminal liability, if he is not hidden from the prosecution or the court.

Thus, the actual scheme, which involved, including officials, is working, "fake" passports are produced, but the responsibility for this, as a rule, cannot be held - Border Service is working to identify forged passports, and in this case the passports are real, only they are issued on the basis of forged certificates, the Migration service does not track even the facts of getting by the person of another citizenship, and the police is waiting for materials from these departments. And even if the perpetrators are identified, the sanctions are paltry. One of the outputs of the current situation, according to Natalia Markocheva, may be the introduction of dual or multiple citizenships in the current legislation of Ukraine, as well as establishing liability for concealment of citizenship of another state.

On the other hand, the analyst Yaroslav Katolik claims that false passports will not be necessary when the EU visas for Ukrainian citizens are abolished. A new type of services provided by intermediaries will appear on the market: Ukrainian citizenship for people in Russia and Belarus. “There are announcements in Odessa inviting you to get residence in the town. I am convinced that intermediary companies that will provide services for people in Russia and Belarus will appear, if visas for Ukraine are abolished", said the analyst.

The investigation is a part of the Anti-Corruption Initiative Moldova-Ukraine project implemented by the Center for Investigative Journalism of Moldova, the Institute of Mass Information and Freedom House with support from the Canadian government.





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