The National Bureau of Investigation NBI and the Finnish Border Guard Rajavartiolaitos have launched a criminal investigation into allegations that officials at the Finnish Embassy in Ankara were involved in a large scale visa scam.
The three suspects, from Finland and Turkey, were hired locally in Turkey, and there is no suggestion that Finnish diplomatic staff were involved.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, two staff have been fired and one remanded for trial over “aggravated facilitation of illegal entry and gross abuse of public office” involving Schengen visas.
“It’s an enormous number at the moment. It’s a big number” says Antti Leskelä, the Finnish Border Guard official in charge of the investigation.
“We are not talking about single individual visas. We are talking about hundreds. This is the number we are suspecting to be issued on false grounds. This is what we are investigating” Leskelä tells News Now Finland.
Leskelä also cautions that the final number of fraudulently-issued visas might go up, or it might go down, as the investigation continues.
Schengen visa access to Europe
Someone holding a Schengen visa from Finland in their passport has free access to move between 26 European countries for a maximum of 90 days within a six month period. Most of those countries are also EU members, but Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Lichtenstein are also included.
Officials conceded they have no idea what has happened to the potentially hundreds of people who received Finnish Schengen visas fraudulently.
“There is several possibilities. They might go to Finland, they might have ended up to other EU member states. Some of them may have claimed asylum and some may be simply overstaying because the number is big and the possibilities are several” explains Antti Leskelä.
The Finnish Border Guard says it has been having close cooperation with authorities in other Schengen countries through Europol, to alert them about the investigation into the Ankara Embassy.