transit point for big US visa scam
Sri Lanka was used as a transit point for Indian and Vietnamese
nationals to enter the United States, according to charges framed
against two Colombo-based US diplomats who are alleged to be the
main suspects in a massive multinational visa scam and people-smuggling
racket that has been unearthed by federal agents in the US.
nationals have been arrested together with the husband and wife
diplomatic duo in what has turned out to be one of the biggest US
visa scams in recent years.
are reported to have been issued to countless Indians, Sri Lankans
and Vietnamese involving the payment of hundreds of thousands of
dollars by Robert Johnson, 32, and his wife Long Lee, 51, both of
whom served in the US Embassy in Colombo.
Ms. Lee was
the third senior-most diplomat in the US mission in Colombo. She
was taken into custody by US federal agents last Wednesday in Colombo,
and given only a few hours to pack her personal belongings before
being escorted by agents back to the US. She was arrested on arrival
at Dulles International Airport in Washington D.C. and indicted
on Friday along with her husband.
FBI agents also
arrested Vinesh Prasad, 33, his brother Minesh Prasad, 28, Narinderjit
Singh Bhullar, 40, all of Sacremento, his brother Davinder Singh
Bhullar, 44 of India, Phuong-Hien Lam Trinh, 35, of Torrance, Rajwant
S. Virk, 46, of Herndon, Va and Rachpal Singh, 32 of Hayward, California.
face charges for conspiracy and additional felony charges including
wire fraud, mail fraud, bribery, visa fraud and money laundering.
"The charges are so far unrelated to terrorism," Benjamin
Wagner chief of the prosecution unit in the US is reported as having
against Ms. Lee, who was due to go as deputy head of mission to
New Zealand in June, says she used her position at the US embassy
in Colombo to help Vietnamese enter Sri Lanka.
Once the Indians
and Vietnamese arrived in Sri Lanka, the husband and wife combination
helped them apply for nonimmigrant - or - temporary visas to enter
the United States.
The US authorities
are unsure how much money has been collected, but a set of visa
brokers including the Prasad brothers asked for US dollars 25,000
from undercover agents for a visa to the US. The Prasad brothers
who were part of the conspiracy had met Mr. Johnson when he served
in Fiji before being assigned to Colombo. Mr. Johnson had helped
them get visas to enter the US.