India’s Bureau of Investigation Seizes €78,5k in French Embassy Visa Scandal.
Approximately €78,500 in cash have been seized by India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) last Friday, August 25, in a search related to visa fraud in the French Embassy conducted at the premises of a travel agent.
The investigation was carried out in Ludhiana, a large industrial city in the north Indian state of Punjab, where the suspect travel agent, Balwinder Singh Bartia, resides.
The CBI later announced that incriminating materials were recovered during the search, whereas an amount of approximately Rs 70.10 Lakh (€78,542.45) were seized from a bank locked in the same city.
According to the Bureau, the suspect charged young farmers and unemployed people in the state of Punjab between Rs 25 lakh to Rs 45 (€2,800 to €5,600) in exchange for Schengen visas from the Embassy of France, New Delhi. He also arranged their flights to the United States from France within a period of ten days after arrival in the latter.
To date, the French Embassy has not commented on the incident.
CBI’s investigation has resulted in legal procedures being initiated against six private persons, two of whom were previously employees of the Visa Department of the Embassy of France, New Delhi. The CBI claims that these two persons have worked with others to fraudulently issue visas in a period of four months, between January 1, 2022 and May 6, 2022.
Amongst the fraudulent acts committed by these people include providing forged letters supposedly written by a private company based at Bengaluru to the Consulate General of France, Bengaluru, for issuing Entry Visas for their joining private companies in Port-Le-Havre, France.
Related to the case, the CBI has previously conducted searches at six locations, including Delhi, Patiala, Gurdaspur and Jammu at the premises of the accused in December 2022, during which it had collected incriminating evidence, including laptops, mobile phones, suspicious passports etc.
India is the third largest source for Schengen visa applicants for 2002, just behind Türkiye and the Russian Federation. 671,928 applications were filed at the Schengen embassies in India in 2022, 18.3 per cent of which were rejected.
The highest number of applications were submitted at the French consular authorities in India (138,643), followed by Switzerland (106,025), and Spain (80,098). Accordingly, France also rejected the highest number of applications, as many as 27,681, out of the total 121,188 rejected by the Schengen countries.
Obtaining a visa is often costly and time-consuming for applicants. The procedures include collecting several documents, paying a Schengen visa fee of €80, purchasing the right travel insurance, and much more.