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Lanka 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.

Several Asian 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.

Entry visas 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.

The accused 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 said.

The indictment 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.

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