17 Dec 2013

Vanuatu Inquiry finds politicians sold diplomatic passports

10:43 pm on 17 December 2013

Political appointees and former Vanuatu diplomats have been implicated in the selling of Vanuatu diplomatic passports to foreigners following a major inquiry.

The three-month Commission of Inquiry, commissioned by the Justice and Community Services Minister Jonas James, has found that the alleged sales of Vanuatu diplomatic passports began in 2002.

The five man commission discovered that the sale of passports was done despite the fact that there was no legislation in place to guide the issuance of diplomatic passports.

The inquiry found that from 2002 to 2007, before the enactment of the Foreign Service Act and the Passports Act, there were many anomalies in the issuance of diplomatic passports.

The diplomatic passports were sometimes issued to persons bearing titles that did not exist within diplomatic ranks.

Furthermore the inquiry's report revealed that diplomatic passports were issued to de-facto partners and middlemen for delivery overseas.

The Commission also found that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs - between 2007 and 2008 in particular, a period in which George Wells was Foreign Minister - was managing the issuance of diplomatic passports and that those passports at the time were being handwritten.

The Commission has made a number of recommendations aimed at regulating the process around issuing diplomatic passports, including that appointees be given the status based on merit rather than political affiliations.