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Embassy official accused of sexual harassment

Veiled Pakistani women wait at a bus stop in Islamabad Keystone Archive

The foreign ministry has confirmed it is investigating charges that an employee at its embassy in Islamabad demanded sex from women in exchange for visas.

This content was published on March 5, 2006 - 15:55

The case was first made public in the Pakistani newspaper, The News, one week ago, and follows on the heels of several cases of suspected visa fraud at Swiss embassies around the world.

At least two women have charged a Pakistani employee at the Swiss embassy in Islamabad with sexual harassment.

Foreign Ministry spokesman, Lars Knuchel, confirmed on Sunday that the authorities were investigating the case, which not only involved harassment but also the circumstances in which Swiss embassy personnel approved or rejected visa applications.

The cases came to light when a Pakistani woman applied for a tourist visa a year ago for herself, her husband and her mother.

In exchange, the official demanded that she spend time with him alone in her hotel room, but, according to The News, his advances were rejected.

She accused the embassy employee with threatening her with dire consequences for turning him down, and found that he had not only failed to grant her a Swiss visa, but had also cancelled her visa for other European countries, using black ink.

False accusations

The Pakistani newspaper said the woman was forced to defend herself and go public with the story when she found herself months later facing criminal prosecution after being accused by the Swiss embassy with tampering her passport.

Exonerated by the Pakistani courts, the woman took the case to the Pakistani foreign ministry which has also opened an investigation.

In the meantime, a second case of harassment and false charges of passport fraud involving the same employee has been made public.

Other cases

Last November, the former honorary Swiss consul in Oman was fined and given a nine-month suspended prison sentence for falsifying visa application forms and overcharging for them.

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

One year ago, 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, involving Swiss missions in Peru, Nigeria, Serbia, Russia and Eritrea.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Other cases of suspected visa fraud involve Swiss embassies in Oman, Peru, Russia, Nigeria, Serbia and Eritrea.

A former Swiss honorary consul to Oman was fined and given a suspended sentence last year for falsifying visas.

Switzerland issues 500,000 visas a year, but the country also refuses about 40,000 visa requests annually.

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