During routing scrutiny of visa applications in Puducherry

A scrutiny of visa applications at the French Consulate in Puducherry has led to the detection of fake passport racket in Tamil Nadu.

During a routine scrutiny of visa applications a few weeks ago, the consulate authorities found certain discrepancies in 14 passports and referred the applications to the Regional Passport Office here. Further investigation revealed that the passports were either tampered with or obtained by fake documents, sources in the intelligence agencies said on Sunday.

“These passports were issued through the district passport cells and the bona fides of applicants were verified through the local police. We have requested the Puducherry police to register a case and investigate. At least 130 passports obtained illegally have been seized...we have launched a probe in association with the Bureau of Immigration,” Regional Passport Officer C. Senthil Pandian told The Hindu.

The Regional Passport Centre in Chennai has introduced enhanced security features on new passports that will make it difficult to misuse.

“The modes operandi of suspects involved in the fake passport racket is to replace some pages and photographs in genuine passports. We have information that a majority of those who misused the passports were Sri Lankan nationals,” he said.

Meanwhile, sources in the Ministry of External Affairs said using biometry in visa and passport processing was the only foolproof mechanism to ascertain the identity of genuine holders.

During the India-Pakistan cricket match held in Chennai, biometric visas were issued to about 80 Pakistanis by the Indian mission in Islamabad and verified by immigration officials at the Chennai international airport.

“Identifying a passport holder based on the photograph in the database is sometimes difficult as the photo could have been taken many years ago. We are in the process of acquiring equipment for biometric verification of visas and passports. The system will first be introduced to foreign nationals as part of the Immigration, Visa and Foreigners Tracking (IVFRT) project,” a senior MEA official said.

Sources in the ‘Q’ Branch CID, which is also investigating the fake passport case, said many Sri Lankan nationals were involved, and Look Out Circulars have been issued to all international airports in the country to apprehend them if they visited India.

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