Venezuela Selling Passports to Terrorists
Wednesday, 08 Feb 2017 10:59 PM
The Venezuelan Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, allegedly has been selling passports to the highest bidder for several years, including criminals and terrorists, who can use them to enter more than 130 nations without a visa — though not the United States, according to news reports.
“Here, people pay a lot of money to get a visa or passport to leave this country,” a former Venezuelan Embassy official who worked in Iraq, Misguel Lopez, told CNN’s Drew Griffin.
He said an Iraqi employee working at the embassy told him after he started his job there in 2013 “you can make lot of money with that.
“They pay $10,000 [U.S. dollars] for a visa.
“Then I got really, really mad,” Lopez said. “I told her: ‘How could you think I’m going to be selling visas or passports, and who was the person that was supposedly going to get the document?”
The Iraqi woman responded, “an Arab guy,” Lopez told Griffin.
He said the woman told him 13 Syrians offered to pay as much as $18,000 each for visas.
“I suspect that they might be terrorists,” Lopez said. “That’s why I object, of course, immediately.”
CNN’s yearlong investigation found a list of containing 21 Arabic names of people who had been issued authentic passports — but a further check in another Venezuelan database found they were assigned to “people with Hispanic names,” Griffin said.
“It’s not fake people,” Lopez said. “It’s different people.”
Lopez said he documented the scheme and disclosed it early the next year to Venezuelan Ambassador Jonathan Velasco.
“Sometimes, he used to say: ‘Caracas do not need to know about that,'” Lopez told Griffin.
Velasco allegedly threatened Lopez’s job — and he sent an email report to Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez in April 2014.
Lopez subsequently lost his job by the end of 2015. He also talked with the FBI at the U.S. Embassy in Madrid, according to the report.
The agency submitted its data to Washington.
“The FBI told us that it could not discuss anything about what happened next,” Griffin said.
Velasco did not respond to repeated request for comment — and a CNN en Espanol reporter accosted her outside the United Nations last year after a Security Council meeting.
“How crazy,” she said in response to questions about the alleged scheme.
“You’re going to hurt yourself. You’re going to hurt yourself following the lies of a person who doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” she said.
“You say that it’s a lie?” the reporter asked.
“Totally,” Rodriguez responded.
Lopez was unimpressed with Rodriguez’s answers.
“You cannot be cop and thief at the same time,” he told Griffin. “I decided to be a cop and do the right thing.”