Authorities uncover tourist visa abuse

The granting of visas can be a lucrative but illegal business.

The Swiss authorities say they are investigating at least four cases concerning the fraudulent issuing of Swiss visas in various countries.

This content was published on March 20, 2005 - 15:44

The Federal Prosecutor’s Office confirmed on Sunday that a staff member of the Swiss embassy in Peru, suspected of wrongdoing, had been taken into custody two weeks ago.

Peter Lehmann, spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, said thousands of visas issued by the embassy in Lima would now have to be reviewed as part of the investigation.

According to the foreign ministry, the case came to its attention in November last year when it "received information regarding abuses of visa procedures".

The ministry said it involved an attempt to bribe an employee to "issue visas fraudulently", which led the authorities to believe the practice had been going on for some time previously.

The authorities are investigating the extent of the fraud, and searching for the suspect who allegedly bribed the embassy official.

Fourth case

Lehmann added that it was the fourth time in the past 12 months that an investigation has been opened into visa abuses.

A former member of staff of the Swiss embassy in Moscow has been accused of selling visas and a former honorary consul in an unnamed Arab country has been charged with manipulating visas for more than 120 people from southeast Asia.

The latter is believed to have accepted bribes of SFr120,000 ($103,000) between 1998 and 2003. Lehmann said another case involved a Swiss "embassy in Africa".

The decision by the Swiss authorities to make public the investigations comes after a high profile case in Germany.

Germany relaxed its rules for issuing visas, which allegedly led to the letting in of criminal gangs and women forced into prostitution, mainly from Ukraine.

Last month, the German foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, accepted responsibility for the scandal.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The Swiss authorities are investigating four cases involving the fraudulent issuing of visas.
The latest case involves the Swiss embassy in Peru.
Swiss missions worldwide issue more than half a million visas annually.

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