Embassy staff ‘had a year to cover tracks’ on visa fraud

Police investigators looking into travel visa racket claim foreign ministry was slow in reacting to reports of visa fraud

Tripoli embassy staff suspected by police investigators of having formed part of a travel visa racket may have spent the past year covering their tracks, a source close to the police has informed MaltaToday.

The Maltese foreign office was first alerted to a suspected visa scam in the Tripoli consulate in June 2013, but only two weeks ago MaltaToday revealed that Maltese consul Marisa Farrugia had been investigated over the alleged fraud – sources claiming that millions in Libyan dinars were paid to the racket.

Some 300 visas every day are issued by the Maltese embassy to Libyans demanding travel permits to Malta.

In a statement issued Monday the foreign ministry claimed that the majority of reports it received in 2013 “had been conflicting” and that the ministry was unable arrive at a conclusive decision on what was going wrong, or who was responsible.

Consul Marisa Farrugia was recalled back to Malta for questioning by the police about the alleged fraud, but this newspaper has been told that police investigators are still waiting crucial embassy files to be handed over to them.

Farrugia was only questioned once by the police from the Economic Crimes Unit over allegations of fraud in the issuing of Maltese visas to Libyan nationals.

MaltaToday is informed that up to 1,500 Libyan dinars was being charged for a fast-track visa application when the normal visa cost €70, or 120 Libyan Dinars. The processing of applications and back-office work is outsourced to a private company also used by other embassies in Libya.

Police sources told MaltaToday that as things stand, there is “insufficient information, evidence or witnesses to proceed with the investigations.”

The  “racket” was uncovered by a number of Maltese companies that realised that their letterheads were being falsified to be used as recommendations and official invitations, to issue visas for unknown Libyan nationals.

Last year in June 2013, after a story in GWU daily l-Orrizont, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had issued a statement saying that investigations were already underway before the case was reported in the media.