Suspected visa fraud in Pakistan widens

Calmy-Rey addressing Swiss diplomats at a conference in 2004 Keystone Archive

Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey is planning a visit to Pakistan in May to discuss cases of alleged visa fraud at the Swiss embassy in Islamabad.

This content was published on April 23, 2006 - 18:57

Pakistani officials say they are investigating several embassy employees for suspected human trafficking.

A foreign ministry spokeswoman confirmed on Sunday that Calmy-Rey is due to travel to Pakistan at the beginning of next month.

She said the talks on the suspected cases of visa fraud would be on the agenda during the trip which had been scheduled for some time.

On Friday the Pakistani authorities announced they had opened an investigation into several employees at the Swiss embassy in Islamabad suspected of involvement in human trafficking.

They allegedly issued hundreds of Swiss visas for Pakistani citizens immigrating illegally to Europe.

Swiss investigation

Pakistani officials said one local employee had been arrested who in turn, accused Swiss officials of visa fraud. The detainee also faces charges of sexual harassment. He is said to have demanded sex from two women seeking Swiss visas.

For its part the Swiss foreign ministry in March launched an inquiry to check the circumstances in which embassy personnel approved or rejected visa applications.

A senior official at the Swiss foreign ministry told the SonntagsZeitung newspaper the Pakistani authorities had not notified Switzerland that they were investigating diplomats.

He also said he was not aware of reports of suspected cases of human trafficking.

The Federal Prosecutor's Office which is involved in an administrative investigation decided earlier this month not to pursue its inquiry.

Other cases

The Swiss authorities are currently also examining cases of suspected visa fraud at Swiss missions in Oman, Peru, Russia, Nigeria and Serbia, as well as in Eritrea.

The foreign ministry said it introduced a series of measures to lower the risk of embassy officials accepting bribes in exchange for Swiss visas.

The measures include more frequent inspections of visa offices and a catalogue of potential risks in certain countries.

Last November the former honorary Swiss consul in Oman was given a nine-month suspended prison sentence for falsifying visa application forms and charging over the odds for the travel documents.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The 141 Swiss missions abroad issue about 500,000 visas a year, while about 40,000 applications are rejected.

The number of visas issued is expected to drop to about 400,000 once the Europe's Schengen accord, doing away with border controls, comes into effect in Switzerland - at the earliest in 2008.

Switzerland is currently investigating cases of visa fraud in Oman, Peru, Russia, Nigeria, Serbia, Eritrea and Pakistan.

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Key facts

February: Reports from Pakistan say a local employee of the Swiss embassy in Islamabad demanded sex from women seeking Swiss visa.
March: Swiss Foreign Ministry sends inspector to the embassy.
April: Pakistani officials say they are investigating several Swiss employees for visa fraud and suspected human trafficking. One local employee has been detained. Swiss authorities open administrative investigation.

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