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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Visa Officers Leave in Scandal

Three consulate employees at the French Embassy have left their posts amid suspicions of issuing visas illegally, Interfax reported Monday, citing embassy sources.

The shake-up follows a report Saturday in the French newspaper Liberation asserting that the three offered travelers French visas for 10 to 30 times the normal cost. The visas were processed over three days. They were issued in April.

The demand for the overpriced visas appears to have stemmed from a holdup at the embassy at the height of Russia's tourist season. The holdup, caused by consulate employees going on strike, forced many Russians to wait two or three weeks for visas that normally take three days to process.

The three employees apparently took advantage of the holdup to issue the so-called Schengen visas, charging from 250 euros to 1,100 euros, instead of the usual 35 euros.

In some cases, the consulate employees offered to overlook missing documents or forge documents certifying income and employment status, Liberation said, citing a source close to the consulate.

The visa-processing delay led thousands of tourists and business people who had anticipated a three-day wait for their visas to cancel their trips.

French Embassy officials could not be reached for comment Monday. The Foreign Ministry in Paris did not respond to an interview request.