Augentic and IN Groupe win bid for Kosovo IDs amid Veridos tax evasion allegations
The contract is worth 12.2 million euros (around $13.5 million) and, aside from ID documents, includes an identity management system and modernizing its IT infrastructure, according to local media reports citing the Kosovo Ministry of Internal Affairs.
The move follows IN Groupe’s recent announcement that it plans to acquire Gleitsmann Security Inks, a company that develops and produces security inks for identity documents and banknotes, for an undisclosed consideration in cash.
The news also comes amid a scandal involving another supplier of Kosovo’s identity documents, German company Veridos, which has been facing accusations of evading customs tax and inflating costs for materials used in producing identification documents.
The Prosecutor’s Office of Prishtina filed an indictment against the company for attempting to import 25,000 passports to Kosovo without proper customs clearance between 2016 to 2018, costing the country’s budget more than 173,000 euros (around $192,000).
Despite legal issues, the Kosovo government contracted the German company again in December of 2022 to supply materials for passports, identity cards and driver’s licenses. In May, however, Veridos was hit with another scandal after alleged irregularities were discovered in raising the costs of importing identification documents from approximately 563,000 euros ($627,000) to over 1 million euros ($1.1 million), according to an investigation by the Balkan Investigative Reporter Network (BIRN).
Veridos has denied BIRN’s reporting on its dealings in Kosovo and claims that the Prosecutor’s Office of Prishtina did not file an indictment against it.
“There was a declaration error made by a subcontractor when importing passports. The error was immediately corrected, after the parties involved were notified by the customs department,” says Veridos Spokesperson Andrea Alton in an email to Biometric Update. “Neither is it accurate that costs for identification documents have been increased in the context of imports.”
Meanwhile, Radio Free Europe reported in January that many Kosovo citizens have been facing issues in applying for passports after facing a lack of materials for producing some documents since October last year.
The tender process for Augentic’s new contract started in the first half of 2022. While this may be the first time Augentic is supplying the Western Balkan country with identification, the company’s CEO Labinot Carreti was previously involved in Kosovo’s identification documents as a senior vice president of global sales at Veridos. Carreti left Veridos in 2020.
“I am thrilled that Augentic’s in-house state-of-the-art software solution platform combined with secure identity documents produced by IN Groupe will be the cornerstone of the modernization of identity management in Kosovo,” Carreti says of the new deal.
Augentic declined to comment on its CEO’s involvement in supplying identity documents to Kosovo during his time at Veridos.
Augentic and IN Groupe have also been contending for a biometric ID card contract launched by Cameroon’s government. French media reported last year that IN Groupe is under review by the French Anti-Corruption Agency (AFA) but no new information has been released. Augentic is already a supplier for Cameroon’s passports while IN Groupe has helped deliver biometrics passports in the Seychelles and is involved in the biometric ID cards in its home country of France.
This post was updated at 12:22am Eastern on July 24, 2023 to clarify the timing of Augentic’s contract with Kosovo and the subject of review by the AFA and at 1:33pm Eastern on July 28, 2023 to include a statement from Veridos.