Sunday, August 28, 2011

FOR SALE: PARAGUAYAN CITIZENSHIP








This appeared in The Blade (Toledo, Ohio) in 1986
Can He Buy Paraguyan Citizenship?

LONDON—Psst....want to buy Paraguayan citizenship?
A “business consultants” firm named MATRAS based in Hamburg, West Germany, is offering a complete package—a genuine Paraguayan passport, driver's license and, at extra cost, a Bolivian birth certificate in a new name.
Posing as a prospective client, I answered MATRAS' tiny classified in the International Herald Tribune. The promotional bumf arrived by return mail: “In a crisis you can fall back on your emergency passport.” Paraguay is described as “one of the last places of refuge in the world.”
It certainly has been a haven for Nazi war criminals, including the notorious Dr. Mengele.
The material from MATRAS is clearly geared for someone who may one day have to make a quick getaway; the service offered is that of an escape route for persons engaged in tax evasion or other criminal activity.
CURIOUS about how the Paraguayans might feel about such assistance, I spoke with Mr. Alvarienta, the consul-general at Paraguay's embassy in London.
“Come again?” he asked, when I informed him of MATRA'S offer. “Ha, ha, ha. They must be out of their minds.”
Or very well-organized. I put it to Mr. Alvarienta that perhaps this German agency had useful connections in South America.
“Why not?” the consul-general replied. “I can't say we are all saints.”
On one point he was adamant: “Five years' physical presence in Paraguay is compulsory to obtain nationality by residence. There is no way around that.”
The Bolivian consulate was equally vehement.
THE PROPIETOR of MATRAS, Karsten K. Niemann, comfirmed by telephone that the price for Paraguayan nationality and passport would be $6,500—more if I required a whole new identity complete with phony birth certificate.
Would I have to visit Paraguay? “No, no, no,” he replied. I would not even have to set foot in what he called the “Switzerland of South America.”
Mr. Niemann said he would be visiting London and suggested a meeting: “This is no subject to be done by letter.”
Several weeks later I met him in a London hotel. He is in his late 30's, 5-foot-3-inches tall and has rugged American-Indian features.
Over a pot of tea in the hotel's lounge, he reiterated his offer: $12,000 for the whole Paraguayan package.
Mr. Niemann explained enthusiastically that he has been in the business of peddling Paraguayan nationality for six years to people “who may need to escape.”
HE BOASTED of being busy with many clients internationally. He spends half his time in Paraguay, which he first visited in 1973 while working in real estate.
I told him that I wished to move to Paraguay, under a different name, as a Paraguayan citizen.
Mr. Niemann smiled and said this was no problem, claiming that with his bona-fide documents I could “disappear” to Paraguay without a trace—many of his clients had done just that, “but, most wait a few years.”
He told me he has dealt with many clients from Britain and the United States. Most of his customers have tax problems and need new names and nationalities with which they can travel freely, he said.
Lowering his voice to barely a whisper, he explained that he had to be especially careful because Italian terrorists had acquired Paraguayan passports through the same procedure.
“We had a lot of trouble from some criminals, very bad criminals—one who killed Aldo Moro, the Italian president, the other who blew up the [Bologna] train station.”
Dr. Paul Wilkinson, a leading expert on terrorism, later confirmed that neo-fascist terrorists in Italy, called “Black Terrorists,” are known to carry Paraguayan passports.
Mr. Niemann said I would have to get a letter of good conduct from the British police to “cover” is Paraguayan contacts.
“The Paraguayan government has been blackmailed to crack down on criminals,” Mr. Niemann said with a sigh. “And therefore the letter of good conduct is most important.”
A London contact of his could arrange to get me a letter of good conduct from the police under a different name, he promised.
The whole procedure would take six to eight weeks, following which I would be a new person—and a full-fledged citizen of Paraguay.
I have passed my file on MATRAS to the American consul-general and the Internal Revenue Service, which is taking more than a passing interest.