Chilean diplomat held for visa scam

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 November, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 November, 2002, 12:00am

Chile has detained its former consul in Shanghai while he is investigated for taking at least US$80,000 (HK$624,000) in bribes to issue visas to mainlanders, an official newspaper said yesterday.

Enrique Subercafeaux, who was appointed Shanghai consul in January, is alleged to have profited by overcharging more than 200 Chinese for visas which should have cost just US$39 each, the Global Times reported.

The Chilean Embassy in Beijing declined comment.

Its consulate in Shanghai said Subercafeaux, 41, had been suspended from duty but was still in the city.

'There is a problem,' a consular official said, but he declined further comment.

Global Times said the Chilean Foreign Ministry had sent a team to China to investigate the allegations. They found not only the sale of visas but suspicion of links to smuggling gangs.

Subercafeaux reportedly faces up to three years in Chilean prison if found guilty.

Once a rising star in the Chilean diplomatic service, he speaks English, French, German, Italian and Chinese in addition to his native Spanish.

He joined the foreign service after studying at Chile's diplomatic school.

In 1987, he was posted to the Chilean Embassy in Beijing. He later served in its embassies in Egypt, Panama and Singapore.

In 1997, he applied for leave of absence to work as an adviser to Chilean companies in China and built up a large network of connections.

Media reports allege he exploited the fact that Chinese are eager to go abroad and are willing to pay inflated fees to obtain visas. The case reportedly came to light because of complaints by Chinese.