British High Commission visa officer held for ‘human trafficking’

A British High Commission visa officer has been arrested by the Federal Investigation Agency, which is investigating a human smuggling ring, on suspicion of selling sponsorship letters to people hoping to obtain a visa for the UK, the Telegraph reported on Monday.

The authorities have also arrested three other men, including a travel agent; the newspaper quoted a source in the Federal Investigation Agency. A number of passports have also been recovered from a house in Rawalpindi. The detention of the High Commission visa officer will be hugely embarrassing to British officials in Pakistan who have invested a huge amount of time and money in detecting fake documents amid concerns that al-Qaeda operatives could arrive in Britain on visas obtained illegally, the report observed.

The Telegraph said Khurram Shahzad, a junior member of the visa section, seemed to have been arrested after a tip-off. An FIA investigator told the British daily that investigators were now trying to determine the scale of the alleged scam and track down any other suspects also working at the British High Commission. The paper quoted a Foreign Office spokesman in Islamabad as saying: “We can confirm that a member of the British High Commission visa section has been arrested. We are co-operating with the FIA in their investigation.

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