Foreign ministry plans action over visa fraud
The foreign ministry says it is considering employing more Swiss staff at its embassies following several alleged cases of visa fraud.
It said that it had been forced to take on more locals in recent years after a series of budget cuts.
Ministry spokesman Alessandro Delprete said on Friday that some of the staff at Swiss embassies had been replaced by local people for financial reasons and the policy had been due to continue.
But there had been problems, said Delprete. Local personnel did not always have enough knowledge of Switzerland and it had been difficult to check for and punish mistakes.
He added that there had also been security issues. Staff who had been at an embassy for a long time and couldn’t be replaced were more likely to receive threats in some countries.
For these reasons the ministry had decided in future to hire “more Swiss personnel to deal with visa requests”.
This might lead to higher costs but Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey could well ask cabinet for extra funds to cover this, said Delprete.
The Federal Prosecutor’s Office has confirmed that officials at six foreign missions – in Peru, Russia, Oman, Nigeria, Serbia and the Democratic Republic of Congo – are being investigated for corruption.
The charges concern the alleged issuing of fraudulent visas mainly in return for bribes.
A formal enquiry is already underway into the former honorary consul in Oman who is accused of selling 120 Swiss visas for SFr150,000. Investigations are continuing into the five other affairs.
It is estimated that Swiss missions worldwide issue more than half a million visas annually.
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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 – in Swiss missions in Nigeria, Peru, Russia, Oman, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Serbia.
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