Battle against passport cheats

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 August, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 18 August, 1997, 12:00am

Samoa's envoy to Hong Kong says he is fighting to stamp out immigration scams involving his South Pacific homeland.

Consul-General Anetipa Lam Sam was replying to what he called 'innuendoes and speculation' over the alleged sale of his country's passports in Hong Kong.

According to Samoan newspaper reports, the tiny island nation's travel documents have been advertised and sold by companies in Hong Kong for up to US$26,000 (HK$201,000).

A scandal erupted in April when a Chinese national with a Samoan passport was arrested at Faleolo airport, Samoa. Soon after, up to 500 travel documents were reported missing. A commission of inquiry was launched and the chief immigration officer and one his senior officials were charged with corruption.

'Samoa is a small place and since Hong Kong is mentioned they think of me because I'm the government representative,' Mr Lam Sam said.

'I've been aware of certain activities and of course I've done all I can to stop this sort of activity,' said Mr Lam Sam, who revealed that he had engaged lawyers to stop companies using his country in their 'vague' advertisements.

Sitting in his Wan Chai office, Mr Lam Sam said no passports or visas had been sold through his consulate. 'I'm not involved and this office is not involved.' He said he had issued visas to travellers heading to Samoa - even though his country did not require them - because some countries through which the travellers passed often required proof of their destination.

'I charge a fee just like any other consular office charges a fee,' he said, adding it would be a few hundred dollars.

'It's definitely bad for the country and the Government is doing all it can to clear the whole thing up,' he said of the allegations.

Mr Lam Sam, who described himself as a retired businessman, has served as consul-general for just over two years. He previously had an accounting practice.