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Scare over missing visa stickers

india Updated: Jan 24, 2009 00:46 IST
Tushar Srivastava
Tushar Srivastava
Hindustan Times
New Delhi

In a development that could have wide-ranging security ramifications, a number of visa stickers have gone missing from the Indian mission in Kuala Lumpur.

While senior officials of the ministry of external affairs (MEA) refused to disclose the exact number of stickers that had gone missing and when the theft was first noticed, sources told Hindustan Times the number could exceed 1,000.

“A high-level inquiry has been ordered,” said a senior official requesting anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the issue. “A senior MEA official based at the headquarters (New Delhi) is conducting the inquiry. We want to get to the bottom of this as fast as possible since the visa stickers getting into wrong hands could have disastrous results.”

There was no official comment from the MEA, which referred HT to the Indian high commissioner in Malaysia.

“I am busy with the national day function and cannot talk,” Ashok Kumar Kantha, the Indian high commissioner to Malaysia, told HT.

Airports across India have been alerted, the source said. “The serial numbers of the visa stickers that have gone missing have been passed on to the concerned officials who have been asked to look out for passengers travelling with them,” the official said.

“Loss of a number of visa stickers from the Indian mission in Kuala Lumpur and their misuse by certain travel agents or their employees for travel of their clients to India, has been detected,” External Affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee had told Parliament on December 11. “Particulars of the missing visa stickers were provided to the Indian immigration authorities with the request to look out for such visa holders. The immigration authorities issued ‘lookout’ circulars in respect of the same.”

Indian diplomats in Kuala Lumpur had informed Malaysian authorities and airlines about the lost stickers, said Mukherjee.

MEA officials said the Indian high commission had outsourced work in the visa section but foreign nationals did not have access to the visa stickers. That means an insider is likely to involved.

It was not clear if any passengers with the stolen visa stickers have been deported.