In a delicate twist to Italian marines saga, it now transpires that the escorting deputy foreign minister Staffan de Mistura did not have a valid Indian visa when he landed at the IGIA airport with two personnel accused of killing Kerala fishermen in 2012.
Mistura and two Marines - Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone - were whisked away from the airport on March 22 evening by Indian authorities after an earlier plan of taking them out through airport ceremonial lounge was shelved due to criminal case involvement.
The Italian minister was given a visa on arrival after intervention at the top official level. Despite HT making phone calls and sending an e-mail to Gianluca Grandi, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Italy in Delhi, there was no response from the concerned diplomats.
The Italian Embassy officials, however, confirmed that Mistura had gone back to Italy.
Sources said the return of the marines along with Mistura last Friday hours before the SC deadline was coordinated at the highest officials levels and the idea of bringing the accused through the IGIA ceremonial lounge by diplomatic protocol was shot down at the last minute due the presence of global media.
It is understood that a top official from Prime Minister's Office negated the earlier plan of bringing the two accused Marines and the minister through the ceremonial lounge as it would send a wrong message among the public.
The home ministry then decided to whisk away the trio, who had arrived from Rome in a military plane, from the tarmac and away from the prying eyes of the media.
Official sources said that while the passports of the three foreigners were being stamped by the airport immigration authorities, it was found that Mistura did not have a valid Indian visa. However, rather than make an issue out of it, the Italian Minister was given a temporary visa on the spot.