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Ex-honorary consul convicted of visa fraud

The former honorary consul on his way to the tribunal

(Keystone)

The former honorary Swiss consul in Oman has been given a nine-month suspended prison sentence for fraud.

The Federal Criminal Court found the defendant guilty of falsifying visa application forms and charging over the odds for them.

The judges found that the former honorary consul, Heinz Oskar Wieland, issued 134 visas illegally and pocketed SFr143,000 ($109,015) between 1999 and 2003.

They also ordered him to pay nearly SFr130,000, including a refund and court fees, saying his case had damaged Switzerland's international reputation.

However, the court in Bellinzona cleared the 78-year-old Swiss citizen of accusations of corruption.

He had partly admitted his guilt during the three-day trial. He claimed responsibility for only 65-90 manipulated visas.

The judges on Monday said some alleged cases of fraud could not be backed up by credible evidence.

More cases

They added that the verdict also took into account the defendant's age and his frail health.

The prosecution had asked for an 18-month suspended jail sentence for visa fraud in more than 160 cases benefiting mostly Bangladeshi citizens.

In March a court in Oman sentenced an accomplice of the former honorary consul to 18 months in prison for falsifying documents.

Four other cases of alleged visa fraud by former employees of the Swiss foreign ministry are being investigated by the federal authorities. They involve the Swiss missions in Peru, Nigeria, Serbia and Russia.

Over the past few years two other suspected cases of visa fraud against former employees at the Swiss embassies in Egypt and the Democratic Republic of Congo were dropped.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Switzerland issues 500,000 visas a year. But the country also refuses about 40,000 visa requests annually.
The Federal Prosecutor's Office suspects that visas were issued in return for bribes – money or presents – at Swiss missions in Nigeria, Peru, Russia, Oman and Serbia.
The case of the former honorary Swiss consul in Oman was the first to go to trial.

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