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Kosovo police says they have apprehended a ring of former government officials who charged 20,000 euro for people to obtain “government official” status and so obtain US visas.
Five former Kosovo officials, including a former Deputy Minister, have been seized by police for falsifying government papers to allow recipients to obtain US entry visas.
Kosovo Police on Tuesday raided homes in Pristina and Drenas belonging to the detained men, who are suspected of having illegally earned up to a quarter of a million euro.
“They are suspected of committing the criminal offence of misusing their official positions, receiving bribes, migrant trafficking... forging official documents and blackmail,” police said on Thursday.
One of the arrested men is a former Minister of Trade and Industry, J. Kastrati, from the ranks of the Democratic League of Kosovo, who served in the last government from 2008 to 2010, BIRN has learned.
Captain Baki Kelani, the police spokesperson, did not divulge the suspects' names, but instead provided a list of the initials of the detainees.
In this case they matched the name and age of the former deputy minister.
Kosovo is the only country in the region left isolated by the EU after Brussels lifted visa requirements for nationals of Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro in December 2009. Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania followed suit in 2010.
Police said the investigation into the US visa affair showed that the five suspects during their time as government officials issued several so-called dépêche for ordinary citizens, which allowed them to get visas for the US.
The probe, helped by the US Embassy in Pristina, showed that the suspects released official documents to 10 persons who were not government officials, and who have since obtained a US travel visas and have stayed permanently in the US.
“The suspects were charging up to 20,000 euro per visa,” police said.
The prosecutor has ordered 48 hours of detention for all the suspects, who it is expected will be brought before the courts shortly.
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