An inquiry has revealed that the Indian Consulate in Chicago was guilty of a major security lapse while issuing visas to Tahawwur Rana, a Pakistani- Canadian arrested by the FBI for allegedly plotting terror strikes in India, and his wife.
The 48-year-old Pakistan-born businessman based in Chicago was issued a multi-entry visa for a period of one-year and his spouse Samraz Rana Akhtar was given a five-year multiple-entry visa by the Consulate last year which enabled them to visit Mumbai and several other places in India days before the 26/11 terror strikes in the financial capital of the country. The visas were issued at the discretion of Indian Consulate General.
An internal inquiry has shown that the residential address provided in the visa applications by Rana couple does not exist. Moreover, an immigration services company where Rana claimed to have been employed told the Indian authorities that he was never employed by them nor did they have a branch in Mumbai as stated by him, official sources said today.
This flies in the face of the claim made by the Consulate last week that it had done "due scrutiny" before issuing visas to Rana and his wife.
The Consulate did not reply to e-mailed questions from PTI about the revelations that have been made in the course of internal inquiry. External Affairs Minister S M Krishna had publicly stated that the issuance of the visas to the Rana duo would be inquired into.
Both the visas were issued "under the discretion of the Consul General" and the Home Ministry had maintained that it was in violation of rules under which its clearance is required for any person born in Pakistan. Rana was born in Chichawatni while his wife was born in Bahawalpur.
Both the places are in Pakistan's Punjab province. The two were exempted even from registering with the police if their stay did not exceed 180 days.
Senior Government officials said there was a circular of 2004 under which the visa applications of people of Pakistan, Iran and Bangladesh origin should be referred to Union Home Ministry for clearance. However, the circular gave discretion to ambassadors and consuls general to give visas to such nationals which the Consular General in Chicago had utilised, the sources said.
Rana and his wife arrived in Mumbai on November 12 last year after which they travelled to Kochi in Kerala on November 16.
An associate of a US citizen David Headley, who has also been arrested on terror charges by the FBI last month, Rana and Samraz had stayed in a five-star hotel for a night in Kochi during which they were allegedly looking for recruits for Pakistan-based Lashker-e-Taiba.
Ahead of the Kochi visit, Rana had advertised in a prominent English daily asking youths willing to immigrate to US and Canada to appear for interview.
Rana and his school friend Headley were arrested last month by the FBI on charges of being part of a plan by Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) to carry out terror attacks in India and Denmark.
The NIA was also looking for people who had booked the advertisement in the newspaper. A team of central security agencies had also visited Kochi edition of a prominent English daily to take details about the people or agency which had booked the advertisement on behalf of Rana.