German embassy staff suspected in bribes-for-visas scam

19th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

German embassy staff in Africa, South America and the former Soviet Union are facing probes for allegedly issuing visas in exchange for bribes, news weekly Der Spiegel reports in its upcoming issue.

Local consular employees at German embassies in several countries around the world stand accused of working over the last two years for international people-smuggling rings to secure German visas, for example for sex workers.

A foreign ministry spokeswoman declined to say whether a criminal investigation was underway but confirmed Berlin was looking into the matter.

"The foreign ministry is working closely with federal police and the public prosecutor's office in Berlin to fully clear up cases where irregularities, abuse or corruption is suspected," she said.

The spokeswoman added that in cases in which local employees were found to have been involved in illegal activities they were "sacked immediately".

The prosecutor's office declined to comment.

Der Spiegel reports in its issue to appear Monday that the applicants gave patently false information on official forms and then slipped staff several hundred euros (dollars) in cash in exchange for each visa.

"For some of these foreign women who arrived in Germany this way, the trip ended at Hamburg brothels," the magazine wrote.

It said the accused were in each case foreign employees of the embassies and not German diplomatic staff, although those who commissioned the people-smuggling rings are believed to be based in Germany.

A similar scandal rocked the German foreign ministry in 2004 when it emerged that several thousand improper visas had been issued at Berlin's embassy in Kiev.

© 2010 AFP

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