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PORT VILA, Vanuatu (August 21, 1997 - PACNEWS)---Vanuatu Prime Minister Serge Vohor has denied reports that government officials recently sold passports to Asian businessmen, but others disagree.

Vohor was responding to allegations made at this week's Union of Moderate Parties Congress on the island of Tanna, that 150 passports were sold illegally.

Vohor said he checked with Vanuatu immigration department officials, who said there is no substance to the charges. However, they did report that three new passports are missing and the matter is being investigated.

Meantime, Foreign Minister Vital Soksok told the Congress that as many as 100 passports may have been sold in New Zealand and 50 in Macau and he has ordered an official investigation.

The Vanuatu Trading Post newspaper also is looking into the matter. It says a so-called Vanuatu investment consultant is facilitating passport matters for Chinese nationals interested in obtaining permanent residency status in Vanuatu.

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