WESTERN SAMOA PASSPORT SCANDAL

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APIA --A leaked parliamentary bill shows the Western Samoan government had planned to sell citizenship papers from as early as 1994.

The Samoa Observer newspaper reports that under Article 19 of the Foreign Investment Bill drafted that year, Prime Minister Tofilau Eti Alesana was given exclusive power to sell citizenship's, permanent residencies, and temporary permits to foreign investors.

The revelation comes in the wake of a scandal over illegal passport sales in Hong Kong involving tens of thousands of dollars.

The Samoa Observer says that advertisements in Hong Kong newspapers promoting Samoan passports for sale had been done so in anticipation of the 39-page Investment Bill becoming law. But the idea was shelved when knowledge of the passport scam became public.

Since the controversy began last month, the normally ebullient Alesana, who holds the immigration portfolio, has continually refused to comment on the issue, fueling public speculation as to why.

Meanwhile, Jin Jipei, the 45-year-old Chinese businessman who sparked the controversy when he arrived last month with Samoan travel documents, has been granted bail after three weeks in jail. A court hearing date of June 6 has been set.

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