BENGALURU: Eight Bengaloreans have now lost the opportunity to possess a passport, thanks to their connivance in falsification of visas at the behest of a travel agent.
The Regional Passport Office in Bengaluru will shortly be filing criminal cases against four couples and will not issue them passports until they are acquitted, said Regional Passport Officer (RPO) P S Karthigeyan. Elaborating on the details of the case, the RPO told Express, “I really hope this episode serves as an eyeopener to others who ruin their prospects and might even end up behind bars trusting some unscrupulous travel agents.”
The four couples, all residents of Ejipura and without professional educational qualifications, were keen on setting foot in the UK.
They had qualifications in traditional crafts and astrology and were desperate to reach a land where earning potential is quite high.
A travel agent guiding them on the procedure involved told them that their chances of obtaining a UK visa was much higher if they had other international travel experience to show.
He volunteered to put in place this experience on their passports by forging visa stamps for some money. The gullible couples fell for the plan and consented.
“The agent then went ahead and carried out a visa fraud by stamping fake visa stamps which depicted them (the couples) as having travelled to Seychelles, Mauritius and France. The agent stamped dummy immigration visas too on their passports. The couples were fully aware of the malpractice carried out by the agent,” revealed Karthigeyan.
The Visa Application Centre of VFS Global in Chennai, a key centre for UK visas in South India, detected that the visas were not genuine.
It retained the passports without informing the holders that they had detected the fraud and handed them over to the British Deputy High Commission in Chennai.
Meanwhile, with no response from the UK Border Agency, the agent realised that they must have suspected foul play. “He then advised the couples to file an FIR with the police that they had lost their passports. Using this, they can apply for a fresh passport at the Bengaluru passport office,” Karthigeyan said, sharing what the couples had told him. The couples did so accordingly and also produced affidavits in support of their case. Passports were reissued to them by the RPO, the IFS officer said.
“The whole issue came to light when a British High Commission official contacted us eight months ago about the passports in their custody,” Karthigeyan said.
The High Commission later handed over the passports to them. The reissued passports have now been taken back from the eight individuals and they will be slapped with criminal cases now. “They do not have proper details of the agent’s whereabouts also. However, the chief responsibility in such cases falls on the passport owner only,” he pointed out.