Vanuatu’s Justice Minister John Still Tari Qetu has appointed a Commission of Inquiry (COI) to investigate allegations of corruption within the country’s Citizenship Commission.

The COI will be chaired by Glen Craig and Christina Thyna as Secretary with Collin Leo, James Steven and Johnny Wilson, as members.

The inquiry will investigate allegations of fake citizenship certificates currently in circulation and that diplomatic passports have been issued in exchange for large sums of money that were not received by the government.

The Ministry of Justice and Community Services (MOJCS) confirmed that Minister Qetu has already signed their appointment letter, and the names have been sent to be published in the Official Gazette by the Office of the Attorney General.

The allegations against the Citizenship Commission were raised in Parliament last week by former Prime Minister and Member of Parliament (MP) for the Pentecost Constituency, Charlot Salwai.

Following Salwai’s question in Parliament, Prime Minister Ishmael Kalsakau assured that his office had already taken action to clean up the Commission’s office.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Jotham Napat also pledged to investigate reports of illegal transactions involving the sale of the country’s diplomatic passports, stating that Vanuatu’s laws do not permit the sale of such documents.

According to Napat, diplomatic passports have been issued to many people, some of whom applied for and were issued the passports through proper channels. However, there are also cases of individuals obtaining these passports without following proper procedures.

The Minister went on to say that he had received reports of individuals being asked to pay up to VT500 million (US$4.18 million) for a diplomatic passport.

The COI will investigate these allegations and related programmes to get to the bottom of the scandal.