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PORT VILA, Vanuatu (September 15, 1997 - PACNEWS)---Vanuatu's Ombudsman has begun investigations into the alleged sales of Vanuatu passports in Asia by government officials.

All four accused of involvement in the passport scam have denied any association.

They are the Secretary to the Council of Ministers, Noel Tabiusu; the Second Secretary to the Prime Minister's office, William Tari; Chairman of the Citizenship Commission, Kepwe Manwo; and the former Office Supervisor of the Prime Minister's Office, Noel Faionalave.

According to a letter from the Principal Immigration Officer, John Mark Bell, to the Prime Minister, dated July 10, 1997, Faionalave was alleged to have picked up three passports from the Immigration Department.

Faionalave admitted collecting the passports from the Immigration Department but says they were for Tabiusu.

Earlier reports indicated that Vanuatu passports allegedly had been sold to Chinese recipients in Taiwan, Macau, and the People's Republic of China.

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