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Maltese consul in Libya probed in investigation over ‘massive’ visa scam

Police probing suspected visa racket inside Tripoli consulate

12 May 2014, 9:53am
Malta’s consul in Tripoli Dr Marisa Farrugia
Malta’s consul in Tripoli Dr Marisa Farrugia
Malta’s consul in Tripoli Dr Marisa Farrugia has been recalled back to Malta for urgent police questioning, after police took action in a request by the government over documented evidence of extensive fraud in the Maltese embassy, in the issuing of travel visas for Libyans.

On Friday, Farrugia arrived in Malta and was interrogated by senior police officers from the Criminal Investigations Department in Floriana, where she was questioned over allegations of fraud in the issue of hundreds of Maltese visas to Libyan nationals.

The investigations took place after a number of Maltese companies raised the alarm when they realised that their letterheads were being used on recommendations and the official invitations used for the issuing of a visa for Libyan businessmen – allegedly copied and falsified to issue visas for other Libyan nationals.

PAGE 1 Malta’s consul in Tripoli Dr Marisa Farrugia was recalled to Malta for urgent police questioning at the CID on Friday, after police took action over documented evidence of extensive fraud in the Maltese embassy, in the issuing of travel visas for Libyans.

The investigations took place after a number of Maltese companies claimed that their business letterheads were being falsified for recommendations and the official invitations used for the issuing of a visa for Libyan businessmen.

The scam appears to have been an ongoing affair, with allegations that someone in the Maltese embassy in Tripoli was responsible and directly involved in the crime – in conjunction with a criminal gang. 

A Libyan criminal ring appears to have been responsible in approaching Libyans businessmen and offering them an immediate Maltese visa for €1,500.

The investigations have been ongoing since March 2013, when the police were approached about the issue of falsified letterheads by an unknown individual in the Maltese embassy. 

This is not the first time that allegations about impropriety at the Maltese embassy have been reported.

The police investigations also showed that the Maltese embassy would give preference to issuing ‘fraudulent’ visas before bona fide applications.

At present the Tripoli embassy issues up to 300 visas to Malta every day.

In June 2013, the Foreign Affairs ministry had issued a statement confirming that the alleged abuse in the issuing of visas by the Maltese Consulate in Libya had been under investigation for weeks.

However, despite confirming that a preliminary internal investigation was initiated upon the order of foreign affairs minister George Vella, government never revealed the outcome of the investigations.

Following allegations that the Consulate was charging up to €3,000 for visa applications which actually cost €70 (120 Libyan Dinars), the processing of applications and back-office work was outsourced to a private company.  

Farrugia was posted to Libya during this period and was entrusted with overseeing the transition of the visa application process to VFS Global, a global outsourcing and technology services specialist for diplomatic missions and governments worldwide. However, company is not involved in the investigations underway.

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