The FIA has been entrusted with preventing the misuse of 1,000 Schengen visa stickers stolen from the Italian Embassy in Islamabad.
The theft of visa stickers, which are valid for travel to any of the 26 Schengen countries in Europe, has been reported to the Italian Foreign Ministry. For foreign travel, the area largely operates as a single jurisdiction with a unified visa regime.
The foreign ministry in a letter to the interior ministry has said: “The Embassy of Italy in Islamabad has informed that 1,000 Schengen visa stickers had been stolen from the Embassy’s locker room. From these visa stickers, 750 visa stickers had numbers from ITA041913251 to ITA041914000 and 250 visa stickers had numbers from ITA041915751 to ITA041916000. The Italian authorities are conducting internal investigations to fix the responsibility.”
The foreign ministry requested the interior ministry and the FIA “to keep track of these visa stickers at all entry and exit points and report any seizure to this [foreign] ministry”.
The issue has been submitted to the FIA’s headquarters by the interior ministry.
According to FIA sources, the agency’s involvement would be limited to “FIA’s role will be just to stop misuse of these visa stickers by entering their numbers in our system”.
According to the sources, the inquiry into the theft of visa stickers falls within the jurisdiction of the local police station.
However, until the filing of this report, the police had received no complaint from the embassy or the interior ministry for filing a theft First Information Report (FIR).
According to reports, the FIA’s technology, which is placed at airports, can identify the bearer of a stolen visa anytime he or she tries to travel to Italy or anyplace else in the Schengen zone.
Because the visa stickers are sold, the sources did not rule out the possibility of an organized network of people traffickers being involved in the heist.
A private overseas employment business executive claimed it was a multi-billion-rupee fraud since a Schengen visa costs Rs2 million and some individuals may be ready to pay up to Rs4 million for it.
Every year, hundreds of desperate men, women, and children are smuggled out of the country by organized rackets and small groups of individuals, according to an FIA officer. Around 112 “most wanted traffickers” are included in the FIA Red Book.
The identities of the most sought terrorists and criminals engaged in the drug trade, fraud, money laundering, human trafficking, and other illicit acts are included in the Red Book.
The majority of these fugitives are from Central Punjab, but there are also offenders from Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, and Azad Jammu & Kashmir.
According to the reports, the traffickers may have already transported a number of hopefuls to the Schengen nations using stolen visa stamps.
The Italian Embassy usually provides visas through FedEx, but owing to Covid-19, the facility has been shuttered for more than a year.
The Foreign Office acknowledged receipt of the complaint but did not reveal the embassy’s name. FO spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri said in a statement that “the issue of the theft of visa stickers was reported to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs by a foreign diplomatic mission in Islamabad. The information was immediately shared with the concerned authorities for taking appropriate action in this regard.”