11 Jul 2011

Chinese group in Vanuatu now offering cash for diplomatic passports

7:33 pm on 11 July 2011

The saga surrounding the controversial awarding of honorary Vanuatu citizenship to six Chinese nationals last year has taken another turn, with one of them requesting a diplomatic passport.

The group had reportedly reached a deal with the then prime minister, Edward Natapei, that they be granted honorary citizenship in exchange for 31 million vatu, or about 340,000 US dollars, to be used for parliamentary renovations.

But there is no record of the money being remitted to the government and the deal has been strongly criticised in a recent auditor's report.

Last week, it was revealed that two of the group had been given full citizenship, amid another offer of money to the government.

Our correspondent reports that Mrs Lee Siu Ping Maria, in a letter to the Speaker, has said she's paid half the amount she'd promised and the balance would be paid once she receives her diplomatic status.

Under Vanuatu law a foreigner normally has to reside in the country for 10 years before they can apply for citizenship, but the group of six Chinese has been in the country for less than a year.