Thursday, January 24, 2008

Citizenship discounts: black maket put price tag on Balts and Russians

Soon after Latvia joined the free travel area known as Schengen at the end of 2007 the country's authorities revealed, with a sigh of relief, existence of a major passports falsification scam, involving significant number of third countries' nationals illegally obtaining Latvian passports.
According to the Russian and Baltic press corrupt officials from the Latvian equivalent of the bureau of citizenship and migration have been dealing on black market issuing fake Latvian IDs. Major Moscow radio station Eho reported on the scandal as follows (from Jan 7th, 2008):

"'Паспорта изготавливались и продавались в основном россиянам и гражданам Белоруссии и Украины', - сообщает министерство"

"'The passports were generally manufactured for and sold to the citizens of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine' -- ministry says"

The story goes on disclosing some financial and marketing elements of the deal, in which 19 Latvian state officials are under investigation:

"Список лиц, получивших поддельные паспорта, пока не разглашается, однако все эти люди правоохранительным органам известны"

"The list of the persons, which received falsified passports has not been disclosed, all these persons, however, are known to the law enforcement authorities"

"Сеть работала в 2004-2005 годах, и незаконно было выдано более 100 паспортов. По данным латвийских СМИ, среди "покупателей" паспортов могут числится известные в России люди. Покупка "легального" паспорта обходилась заказчику в 70-100 тысяч евро"

"The network operated in 2004-2005 and more than 100 passports were illegally issued. According to the Latvian media famous Russians can be found among the "buyers" of the passports. For a "legal" passport a buyer had to pay between 70 and 100 thousand EUR"

Thus, for a Russian a foolproof Latvian passport would cost between €70.000 and €100.000. No wonder then there are wealthy people among the buyers.

Yesterday the press revealed the names of some of the Russians yearning for unhindered travel within the borders of Europe (Delfi):

"За незаконное получение паспорта летом прошлого года была осуждена гражданка России Наталья Рукина, которая после уплаты штрафа была выслана из Латвии и, скорее всего, включена в "черный список" Шенгенской зоны"

"Russian citizen Natalia Rukina was convicted in the summer of last year for illegally obtaining a passport; after paying a fine she was released and deported from Latvia, as well as most probably inserted into Schengen's 'black list'"

"Латвийские паспорта были у всех членов семьи Рукиных — у родителей, а также у детей"

"All Rukin's family members had Latvian passports - the parents as well as the children"

The story goes on saying that the Rukin family, as testified Mrs Rukina, bought fake Latvian passports in order to travel throughout Europe, unstopped. Mrs Rukina husband is Russian millionaire, dealer in expensive cars, BMWs and Rolls-Royces as well as food businessman, producing Russian pelmenes (spelling?) and other brands of food, according to the news.

These facts established let's turn to the Russian black market on documents. Russian search engine provides abundant facts for comparison.
This story in major news portal tells about a criminal gang, operating in Moscow, which dealt in citizenship and other forms of document falsification:

"Сыщики УБЭП ГУВД Москвы обезвредили организованную преступную группу, члены которой всего за 2 тысячи долларов помогали всем желающим получить российское гражданство"

"Detectives of Moscow's Central Department of Internal Affairs' Department of Investigation of Economic Crimes (УБЭП ГУВД) have disarmed an organized criminal group, whose members provided anyone with Russian citizenship for just 2000 dollars"

According to the story the Moscow gang offered to the interested parties any documents, diplomas, certificates, military certificates, including unfilled blanks of the documents from the presidential administration.

The referred case in Moscow is really on the upper part of the price curve. On the lower part of the curve stand the cases where a passport is obtained for a couple of hundreds of bucks. Funny one is the case from Volga region in Southern Russia, where the IDs are sold and bought at inexpensive prices if not to say at significant discounts.
Of course, local registration is an important part of the price because Russian citizens who aren't Muscovites can't legally stay for long in Moscow without having to register themselves, which is expensive. This makes Moscow documents outstanding.
So, how much is for non-Moscow, distant region passport? Pravda has the answer (Pravda):

"в Заволжье гражданином можно стать за десять баранов"

"in the Volga region you can become a citizen for ten sheep"

Finally one can see what is the difference in price between Russian and Latvian passports. Latvian passport is 50 to 75 times more valuable than Moscow's. In Volga region, however, for a price of one Latvian passport one could get settled a shipload of emigrants from Africa. That is if they'd agree.

I guess, this also reflects the difference between living in a normal country and in Russia.

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