Lahore: Pakistan on Monday suspended eight officials of the National Database and Registration Authority after a British newspaper reported it had uncovered a visa scam that could allow potential terrorists to sneak into Britain with the country's Olympic team.
The eight officials from Lahore who were suspended were believed to have helped an undercover team of the British tabloid, The Sun, in acquiring a Computerised National Identity Card (CNIC).
The identity card was used to obtain a Pakistani passport.
"We have suspended eight employees, including the general manager in Lahore, in connection with the scandal and launched a thorough investigation," NADRA chairman Tariq Malik said.
Strict action will be taken if the NADRA officials are found guilty, he said.
Earlier in the day, Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik formed a special team to probe the British newspaper’s report on the visa scam.
Malik directed the team headed by the director general of the Federal Investigation Agency to complete its investigation in three days and to arrest those responsible.
The team includes officials from NADRA, Inter-Services Intelligence, Intelligence Bureau and FIA.
Officials said a decision was made to launch a large-scale investigation within NADRA and the passport office that The Sun had reported was involved in the scam.
The Sun reported its journalist had infiltrated a criminal ring that offered false passports, visas and access to the 2012 London Olympics as "bogus support staff" of the Pakistani team.
The ring had provided its undercover reporter a genuine Pakistani passport in a false name, the newspaper reported. The scam centred round Lahore-based Dream Land travel agency and a politician named Abid Chodhary, who claimed he could get a two-month visa and smuggle a person into the games as part of Pakistan's Olympic squad for GBP 7,000.
NADRA chairman Tariq Malik said Chodhary’s name had been included in the Exit Control List, a document that lists people barred from travelling out of Pakistan.
"We have asked the FIA to probe the affairs of the travel agency (Dream Land) that had facilitated the British tabloid’s team in obtaining a fake CNIC," Malik said.
A spokesman for the FIA told a news agency that his organisation had nothing to do with the fake passport issue as only a passport office could issue a passport if a person produced a genuine CNIC.
"If the CNIC is genuine, we are bound to issue a passport against it," he said.
First Published: Monday, July 23, 2012, 20:28