Staffer at U.N. ac­cused of fal­si­fy­ing U.S. visas in im­mi­gra­tion fraud case

The Washington Times Weekly - - World - By Betsy Pisik

NEW YORK — U.S. au­thor­i­ties on Aug. 6 ar­rested a U.N. trans­la­tor ac­cused of run­ning an ex­trav­a­gant scheme with two part­ners to sell U.S. visas, mostly to na­tion­als from the Cen­tral Asian na­tion of Uzbek­istan.

Vyacheslav Manokhin, a rel­a­tively low-rank­ing U.N. staffer, is ac­cused of re­quest­ing, on U.N. let­ter­head, visas for aliens to at­tend U.N. con­fer­ences that didn’t ex­ist or real con­fer­ences that the vis­i­tors did not at­tend.

The United Na­tions said it waived Mr. Manokhin’s diplo­matic im­mu­nity two weeks ago.

Mr. Manokhin, 45, and two as­so­ciates are charged with “con­spir­acy to com­mit fraud with re­gard to im­mi­gra­tion doc­u­ments,” a scheme that had ap­par­ently been in op­er­a­tion since at least April 2005.

“Manokhin used his po­si­tion at the U.N. to make it ap­pear as though the U.N. sup­ported the visa ap­pli­ca­tions, so that the aliens could en­ter the United States, pur­port­edly to par­tic­i­pate in con­fer­ences or­ga­nized by non-gov­ern­ment or­ga­ni­za­tions (NGOs), by the U.N. or by en­ti­ties as­so­ci­ated with the U.N.,” read a state­ment is­sued by the U.S. at­tor­ney for the South­ern Dis­trict of New York, Michael Gar­cia.

“In most in­stances, the alien was suc­cess­ful in ob­tain­ing a visa and en­ter­ing the United States,” it said. Nine of 15 re­quests for en­try visas were granted.

Mr. Manokhin’s part­ner, Kamil­jan Tur­sunov of Uzbek­istan, was ar­rested by Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment on July 25 for fail­ing to ap­pear at an im­mi­gra­tion hear­ing.

He ad­mit­ted pay­ing $15,000 to an Uzbek as­so­ci­ate for the false let­ter of in­vi­ta­tion.

Mr. Tur­sunov told au­thor­i­ties that he moved to Florida and had lived there for two years.

Dur­ing at least part of that time, he posed as an of­fi­cial of an Uzbek NGO.

Mr. Manokhin is a Rus­sian trans­la­tor spe­cial­iz­ing in dis­ar­ma­ment and de­col­o­niza­tion is­sues for the U.N. Gen­eral As­sem­bly.

He ad­mit­ted that he sent the let­ters un­der the name of a fic­ti­tious of­fi­cial of the U.N. De­vel­op­ment Pro­gram, which has of­fices in 150 coun­tries around the world.

An­other Manokhin part­ner, Vladimir Dere­vianko, is ac­cused of par­tic­i­pat­ing by pos­ing as the di­rec­tor of an NGO spon­sor­ing some of the visas and us­ing a Man­hat­tan of­fice as a re­turn ad­dress.

Mr. Dere­vianko was born in what was then the Soviet Union and granted asy­lum in the United States in 2004.

Prose­cu­tors say Mr. Manokhin al­lowed Mr. Dere­vianko to use his phone num­ber in the fraud­u­lent let­ters, which were signed by a fic­ti­tious U.N. De­vel­op­ment Pro­gram (UNDP) of­fi­cial called “Leonardo Brack­ett” or a U.N. of­fi­cial named “Greg Smith.”

When queried, the trans­la­tor would say he was Mr. Brack­ett’s as­sis­tant.

U.S. in­ves­ti­ga­tors said they checked ho­tels where the Uzbeks were sup­pos­edly stay­ing and found no record of their oc­cu­pancy.

They also checked lists of speak­ers and at­ten­dees of var­i­ous U.N. con­fer­ences and did not find them listed.

Mr. Manokhin, 45, ad­mit­ted to in­ves­ti­ga­tors that he al­lowed Mr. Dere­vianko to use his tele­phone num­ber as a con­tact for U.S. au­thor­i­ties.

In ad­di­tion, the two are among the “found­ing direc­tors” of a nonex­is­tent U.S.-based NGO that re­port­edly hosted some of the con­fer­ences.

U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said the U.S. At­tor­ney’s Of­fice re­quested and re­ceived the as­sis- tance of U.N. in­ves­ti­ga­tors but noted that the in­quiry did not be­gin with the United Na­tions it­self.

The charg­ing doc­u­ment in­di­cates that UNDP’s of­fice in the Uzbek cap­i­tal, Tashkent, may have been the first to sus­pect a prob­lem.

Sal­va­tore Da­lessan­dro, the spe­cial agent in charge of the New York of­fice of Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment, or ICE, said his de­part­ment de­ter­mined that none of the Uzbeks who sup­pos­edly took ad­van­tage of the scheme have links to ter­ror­ist groups.

“But in a post-Septem­ber 11 en­vi­ron­ment, ICE is ag­gres­sively ded­i­cat­ing re­sources to­wards iden­ti­fy­ing vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties and cut­ting off il­le­gal av­enues for in­di­vid­u­als en­ter­ing the coun­try,” he told The Wash­ing­ton Times.

He said Mr. Manokhin be­trayed “the pub­lic trust” in the United Na­tions by “act­ing to le­git­imize their pres­ence” in the coun­try.

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