TEL AVIV (Mar. 27)
A dozen Israeli employees of the consular section of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv were indicted Sunday on charges of having illegally issued hundreds of U.S. tourist visas.
They are reported to have smuggled passports of visa applicants into the embassy, where they were secretly stamped and added to the pile of passports awaiting official signatures.
The charges against the 12 include forgery and accepting bribes. The indictments say the crimes were considered very serious because they were committed against a friendly nation.
Israelis who feared that their official visa applications might be rejected are reported to have paid thousands of dollars to the local employees involved in the scam in order to obtain the illegal visas.
The operation is said to have been going on for some months. The employees were investigated by embassy officials and the police.
Hundreds of Israelis line up daily for hours outside the U.S. Consulate on Hayarkon Street in Tel Aviv, awaiting their turn to enter the building to present their visa applications.
Many of them are rejected for various reasons, often because it is believed the persons applying might not return to Israel and would remain illegally in the United States.