Four jailed for Goa-Portuguese nationality fraud
The four members of the ring, who are citizens of India and Mozambique, were given jail terms between three and six years following a series of raids in several countries.world Updated: Dec 18, 2017 19:04 IST
Four members of a ring that facilitated acquisition of Portuguese nationality by Indian citizens through fraudulent paperwork and links to the former Portuguese colony of Goa, Daman and Diu have been jailed in Lisbon following a major international operation.
Called Livro Mágico (Magic Book), the operation launched in 2013 spanned India, Portugal, the United Kingdom, Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, Mozambique, Principe and Cape Verde. Acquiring Portuguese nationality allowed the Indian citizens to migrate and settle in Europe.
Under Portuguese citizenship law, those born in the colony before December 19, 1961, when India liberated Goa from Portuguese rule, can apply for citizenship. The facility, which extends to their children, has been taken up by thousands of people from the former colony in recent years.
The facility enabled fraudulent networks to emerge. According to SEF, Portugal’s Immigration and Borders Service, the four members of the ring are citizens of India and Mozambique. They were given jailterms between three and six years followinga series of raids in several countries, including Leicester in the United Kingdom.
“The actions of the defendants aimed at raising Indian clients willing to pay monetary amounts in order to obtain Portuguese nationality. The network provided the necessary false documentation, including birth certificates from Goa, Daman and Diu,” SEF said last week.
The fraudulently acquired birth certificates allowed the “clients” to prove a connection with Portugal that eventually led to citizenship. The ring reportedly charged nearly 30,000 Euros per person, allowing entire families to avail of its fraudulent services.
Raids during the international operation led to the seizure of a large number of documents, computer equipment, mobile phones, correspondence, cars, credit cards, about 20,000 Euros, gold and jewellery, officials in Lisbon said.
“Among the documentation…there was abundant evidence that many of those who acquired Portuguese nationality had identities different from those with which they fraudulently applied to claim Portuguese nationality,” the SEF said. “It was proved that the defendants organised themselves with the objective of obtaining economic profits with the processing and instruction of requests for Portuguese citizenship by citizens of Indian-origin”.
The investigation began after initial information from US, Canadian and UK authorities, who reported the arrival of a large number of Portuguese citizens of Indian origin. Many of them had already requested visas to these countries under their true identity.
According to Britain’s Office forNational Statistics, there were 28,000 India-born UK residents with Portuguese nationality in 2017. However, reports in the Portuguese media suggest the figure may be more than twice that figure.
Thousands of Goans moved to the UK after acquiring Portuguese citizenship, settling mainly in London, Swindon and Leicester. In the charged immigration discourse, there are demands that the British government stop what is called a “loophole” that allows Goans to acquire Portuguese citizenship and move here instead of Portugal.
As Portuguese and now EU citizens, the Goans are part of the ongoing Brexit discourse on the continued stay of EU citizens after Britain leaves the European Union, expected by March 2019. Recent talks in Brussels suggest that those who arrive by that date will be allowed indefinite stay.