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Visa applications misused by extortionists

Extortionists in Sri Lanka have been using personal financial information submitted to the various embassies by persons seeking visas, reports PK Balachandran.
Hindustan Times | By PK Balachandran, Colombo
UPDATED ON MAY 18, 2007 03:57 PM IST

Extortionists in Sri Lanka have been using personal financial information submitted to the various embassies by persons seeking visas. Wealthy persons become their targets.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa told the media here on Wednesday, that government had credible evidence that there were cases in which personal financial data furnished to the embassies as part of visa applications, were leaked to criminal elements who, in turn, used the information to identify targets for extortion.

The suspicion is that information is being leaked out by moles in the private companies which handle visa applications for the embassies here.

On January 16

The Island

daily reported that the police had come to know of this racket after a victim of abduction told them that the abductors had come armed with information which he had furnished with his visa application.

The victim had to pay LKR 15 million (INR 30 million) to secure his release.

Colombo city and its suburbs had become a hotbed of abductors and extortionists from 2006 onwards, with more than 70 cases coming to light in one year, according to the Civil Monitoring Committee led by Mano Ganesan MP. Most of the victims were Tamils, including many of Indian origin. Jaffna had also seen a high number of disappearances, inviting global attention and censure.

The members of the CMC and the media have tended to accuse some elements in the government of being hand in glove with the extortionists.

But the government, including President Rajapaksa, has been saying that the issue is exaggerated. Many of the cases of abduction are actually voluntary disappearances, they say.

"I am in a position to tell you with confidence that the situation is being blown out of proportion. Some of the persons reported to have been abducted have in fact gone abroad. We can prove that," Rajapaksa said on Wednesday.

In some cases, the police were hindered by the fact that they could not enter LTTE-controlled areas to conduct investigations, the president pointed out. In other cases, it was difficult to get witnesses to come forward and testify, he said. So the arrest persons had to be let off.

Maldivians sink 'LTTE' ship

The Maldivian Coast Guard had sunk a gun-running vessel and arrested five men who were on board, the Sri Lankan media said on Thursday, quoting the Maldivian Foreign Minister Ahmad Shaheed.

Initial reports said that it was an LTTE vessel. But later, doubts crept in because one of the men on board who jumped into the sea and surrendered, spoke Malayalam and not Tamil.

An international agency quoted the LTTE's spokesman, Rasaiah Ilanthirayan, as saying that the vessel and the crew in question did not belong to the LTTE.

In 1988, Sri Lankan Tamil mercenaries belonging to the Peoples' Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE) tried to land in Male and seize the government on behalf of a group of Maldivian opposition politicians. But the move failed because the Indian Navy intervened at the request of President Mohd Gayoom and intercepted the vessel in which the mercenaries were travelling.

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