Passports for Sale


Special to the Maghreb & Orient Courier

According to information collected from various news outlets there are several complaints and testimonies that indicate that the Venezuelan government has provided passports and visas to people linked to terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas, in exchange for thousands of dollars. These accusations have generated concern in the international community, especially in the United States, which has been investigating the connection between Venezuela and terrorist groups since 2006. The Venezuelan government, for its part, has denied these claims and has accused the complainants of treason, conspiracy and terrorism. 

One of the complainants is Misael López, he is the former counselor of the Venezuelan embassy in Iraq, who revealed a plot to sell official documents from the diplomatic headquarters. There is also evidence that some of the Venezuelan passports issued to Arab citizens have ID numbers that correspond to Hispanic names in a public database. 

In a CNN en Español report based on the testimony of Misael López, former legal advisor of the Venezuelan embassy in Iraq, denounced the sale of official documents to people linked to the Lebanese terrorist group, he also named the former vice president of Venezuela, Tareck El Aissami, as one of those responsible for this plot 

López detailed a plot to sell passports and visas in exchange for thousands of dollars at the Venezuelan embassy in Iraq and claims to have rejected repeated offers to receive part of the money if he participated in the business. 

CNN and CNN en Español jointly investigate serious irregularities in Venezuelan visas and passports. 

The investigation reviewed thousands of pages of documents and conducted interviews in the United States, Spain, Venezuela and the United Kingdom, as well as tracking down the accusation that Venezuela gave passports to people who are not Venezuelan and who should not be eligible for that document. It was initially proposed, according to interviews and archives in the early 2000s when Hugo Chávez was in his first term as president of the country. 

The Venezuelan passport opens the doors to more than 130 countries without the need for a visa, including the majority of Latin American nations and 26 in the European Union, according to a study by the consulting firm Henley y Asociados. The United States is not on that list. 

During the course of the investigation, López provided CNN with documents showing repeated complaints to Venezuelan authorities about what he discovered. However, he claims that, instead of investigating them, the Venezuelan government attacked him for publishing confidential information. On the other hand, the United States authorities were also alerted to the situation 

The former counselor began a new life in the Venezuelan embassy in Baghdad. However, his first day of work in July 2013 brought him, as he says, an unpleasant surprise. He assures him that his new superior, Ambassador Jonathan Velasco, put him in charge of a very special envelope. 

“He gave me an envelope containing visas and passports and told me ‘Take care of this, you have a million dollars in your hands.’ He then explained to me that in Iraq people paid a lot for a visa or a passport. I thought it was a joke,” López recalls. 

López claims that an Iraqi employee hired as an interpreter at the embassy for several years explained to him that she had earned thousands of dollars selling Venezuelan visas and passports. He told him that he could also make a lot of money if he did the same. 

Lopez says he immediately refused to participate in the alleged deal and warned him that he was doing the wrong thing. She says that the employee continued to insist and that on one occasion she even proposed to sell visas to a group of thirteen Syrians who were in Kurdistan for $10,000 each. 

She, López assures, would give him a commission for participating, rejecting the offer to participate. “Their excuse is that they wanted to go to the soccer World Cup that was held in Brazil in 2014. I suspected they

were terrorists. That’s why I totally refused, and he was stunned by a document he found at the embassy. It was a list of 21 Arabic names with their corresponding Venezuelan passport and ID numbers. 

A Venezuelan immigration agent told CNN that the passports are valid and match the Arabic name Lopez that was found. 

Surprisingly, when reviewing the ID numbers in a public database in Venezuela, we realized that 20 of the 21 IDs were registered under people with Hispanic names and not the Arabic names listed on the document. 

“We are not talking about fake passports: they are authentic documents. The fake ones are the people who use those passports,” explains López. 

According to the diplomat, Nicolás Maduro’s administration does not want this information to become public: “I don’t have money, I don’t have access to my things, I’m far from my family and I can’t go to Venezuela, but I did the right thing.” says López, who currently resides in Spain. 

López was an official at the Venezuelan embassy from July 2013 until July 2015, when he was fired. During his administration, he alerted the Venezuelan government about the alleged sale of official documents from its embassy in Baghdad. He is currently under police investigation for revealing “reserved, confidential or secret matters.” 

“In Iraq, people can pay a lot for a visa or passport. The Venezuelan passport, according to a study by Henley and associates, opens the doors of its bearer to 130 countries without needing a visa, including most of them. Latin American nations and 26 of the European Union”. 

López Soto affirms that Venezuelan embassies in the Middle East are used to document people who in many cases have nothing to do with Venezuela and who, in some others, are linked to terrorist organizations. According to the report, US authorities have been investigating the connection between Venezuela and terrorist groups since 2006. 

At the end of 2016, the State Department shared a report on terrorism with CNN in which they stated that there is evidence to believe that the Latin American country supported “beneficial activities for known terrorist groups.” 

According to a regional intelligence report to which CNN had access to, 173 people from the Middle East obtained passports and other Venezuelan identification from 2008 to 2012, among whom are members of the terrorist group Hezbollah. 

Some Venezuelan authorities involved in the passport scandal; Among them, is the former vice president Tareck El Aissami, who is accused of “identifying, granting visas and naturalizing natural citizens of different countries with particular interest in Syrians, Lebanese, Jordanians, Iranians and Iraqis.” He is currently missing, and it is known that he took with him 23 million dollars belonging to the Venezuelan treasury and that the Venezuelan government has not issued any type of information. 

Another official involved in the scheme of false passports and Venezuelan visas is Ghazi Nasr Al-Din, a former Venezuelan diplomat who served as a counselor at the Venezuelan embassy in Syria and who also served in Lebanon. According to the US Treasury Department, Nasr Al-Din used his position to provide financial support, raise funds and facilitate the travel of Hezbollah members.


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Specialist in US Policy (Security, Assymetrical Operations and Business Development) towards Africa and Arab World (Washington DC – USA)

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