This is simply human trafficking under the cover of travel and tourism. More than 300 people from India, most of them hailing from West Bengal, entered Italy in phases from 2006-08 with tourist visas valid for 14 days but none of them returned.
All the visa applications were submitted to the Italian consulate general in Kolkata. The entire episode created such a stir here that the consulate officially announced that it would not entertain any more visa applications and would take action against its three employees including the visa officer.
Cops suspect the involvement of an international job racket. Bruno Campria Italy’s consul general in Kolkata, however, refused to comment on the matter.
Though none of the 307 missing persons, hailing mostly from remote villages, were all males. Though they could hardly afford to travel to Italy, the consulate did not raise any questions and cleared all the tourist visa applications and sent them to the Italian embassy in Delhi without interviewing any applicant. A probe revealed that two executives from the Kolkata office of an internationally reputed tour operator carried out the entire activity illegally, using letterheads and duplicate stamps of the organization and forwarding the visa application forms guaranteeing the applicants’ return after their tours in Italy.
The probe also revealed that they were in connivance with three employees including the visa officer of consulate.
Thomas Cook, the tour operator, lodged a complaint at the Alipore police station last month against two of its employees and sacked them and even issued an advertisement in some newspapers on March 11 announcing that the two were no longer with the company.
Kruti Sharma, manager, corporate communications of the company refused to comment on the matter.