Files at the Maltese consular office in Tripoli were seized as part of a police investigation into alleged travel visa fraud, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Officials were in the Libyan capital over the weekend to oversee the collection of documents that were necessary to determine how the consular office worked.

The ministry was reacting to media reports that Malta’s consul, Marisa Farrugia, is being investigated by the police over a case of alleged visa fraud worth millions of euros.

Dr Farrugia was called back for police questioning last week but the ministry insisted yesterday it was not privy to the discussion between the consul and the police.

“As expected, the ministry has not communicated with the police and the official on the contents of their meeting... the ministry is not informed of any charges that were levelled or could be levelled,” the statement said.

It was for this reason that the ministry refrained from commenting on the official who was identified by Malta Today as allegedly being involved in the scam.

The ministry did not answer when asked whether it would be taking any action against Dr Farrugia pending the outcome of the police investigation but insisted that “where necessary” it was ready to take any administrative action.

However, the ministry confirmed it had been receiving numerous reports of allegations of wrongdoing in the way travel visas were being issued by the consular office in Tripoli.

It said that most of the reports contained conflicting information that made it impossible to determine what was wrong.

Over the past months consular officials held meetings with officials from the Foreign Ministry, the Home Affairs Ministry and the Office of the Prime Minister in an exercise to analyse the visa issuance process.

The ministry said the working environment of the Maltese consulate was very difficult given the state of security in Libya and the pressure by Libyans, who wanted visas to leave their country. The Maltese embassy in Tripoli is one of the few EU missions still operational there and as a consequence handles hundreds of visa requests per day.

As part of the Schengen arrangement, a visa issued by Malta will allow Libyans into the EU.

Malta withdrew its consul in Benghazi, Libya’s second city, last year after receiving death threats. The Benghazi office used to issue travel visas as well.

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