British paper uncovers Olympic visa scam in Pakistan
London: A sting operation by a British tabloid has unearthed a visa scam in Pakistan that would have given potential terrorists an easy route to sneak into Britain as "support staff" with the country`s Olympic team.
The scam worked through a network of corrupt officials, in toe with a politician, who offered to provide a genuine Pakistani passport in a false name to enter London during this week`s Olympics.
The Sun reported that 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 its undercover reporter get a genuine Pakistani passport in a false name, the newspaper said.
The scam centred round the Lahore-based Dream Land travel agency and the 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 7,000 pounds.
"First they provided our undercover investigator with a genuine Pakistani passport in a false name. Then leading Lahore politician Abid Chodhary spelled out how for around 7,000 pounds he could get our man a two-month visa ? and smuggle him into London 2012 as part of Pakistan`s Olympic squad," the report said.
The Sun secretly filmed Chodhary as he explained how easy it was to get into the Olympic Village by masquerading as a member of the athletes` support team, and the reporter was told he could even take part in Friday`s opening ceremony.
"At no point did any of the corrupt officials question our reason for wanting to sneak into Britain," it said.
The paper then alerted Britain`s Home Office and intelligence agency MI6, as well as the British High Commission in Islamabad.
Reacting to the investigation, Britain`s Home Office said it will be handing the evidence straight over to the Pakistani authorities.
"Olympic delegation lists are tightly controlled and are provided by each participating country so we know which Games Family Members are coming well in advance. It is a system with stringent checks in it, including requiring an individual`s fingerprints. They can`t be forged," it said.
The boss of the agency Dream Land was jailed in 2003 after an inquiry found that he sent clients to the UK, US and Canada on false passports.