Consulates tighten security to beat visa fraud

March 13th, 2008 - 5:48 pm ICT by admin  

Chennai, March 13 (IANS) A day after the US consulate here slapped “life time ban on travel to US” on nearly 200 film personalities, a consulate official said Thursday that the scandal’s unearthing may prove a blessing in disguise. The consulate’s principal officer, David Hopper, admitted to reporters that visa fraudsters’ attempts to con the mission were bound to impede the travel of genuine passengers.

“Despite the fact the film personalities in question committed deliberate fraud, we wish to clarify that we have great faith in the film industry here. For sometime, genuine travellers may find the scrutiny difficult, but eventually all of us can be sure that only those above board will go abroad,” Hopper said.

Following the consulate’s ban of over 200 people who falsely claimed film industry connections in visa applications after the arrest of an actress, Flora Saini, and two accomplices when they tried to obtain visas Tuesday, other foreign missions have launched stringent measures to detect similar attempts.

At least three consulates have started the exercise, travel industry sources said.

“From now on originals of bank statements, property documents, correspondence with sponsors, tour itineraries and other details will come under a more doubting microscope. Many people may avoid using popular transit points like London, Frankfurt, Paris or Amsterdam because of the new checks,” an official of a foreign airline pointed out.

Significantly, the former chairman of a public sector bank here, scheduled to leave on a tour to the US last week, had to postpone his trip by several days due to difficulties encountered during an attempt to obtain a transit visa to Britain.

While most diplomatic sources are tightlipped over the matter, Hopper was more forthcoming.

“We do not believe that these people did this inadvertently by the prompting of fake brokers. Our analysis shows that they had other ulterior motives,” he said.

“Usually film industry applications come in pairs. An actor or director supports the cases of the other applicants to procure B1 visas for short business trips. Now we have barred even the legitimate personalities who had supported frauds from getting a US visa for life,” Hopper said.

Hopper refused to reveal details of investigations either in the US or in India citing security concerns.

“We do not part with any details publicly ever. However, we can say that the detected fraudsters have been dealt with effectively,” Hopper added.

Six people arrested Tuesday are under police interrogation, police sources said.

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