A United States anti-graft taskforce is expected in Hong Kong to scrutinise allegations of visa fraud linked to US Immigration and Naturalisation Service (INS) chief James DeBates. Russell Bergeron, an INS senior press officer in Washington, said it was normal for the investigative branch, the Internal Audit Division, to seek first-hand evidence following the launch of an internal inquiry. No date for the team's arrival had been set but it was standard procedure for a group to be dispatched when there were no audit division officers already stationed in a country. Mr DeBates, 45, the acting officer-in-charge of the INS's Hong Kong office, is suspected of links to a scheme which smuggled hundreds of illegal immigrants from China to the US. He is on 'administrative leave' in the US but his wife Heddy, a US citizen of Chinese origin, told Reuter yesterday they had no objection to being investigated. 'Yes, that's okay. They can investigate,' she said. 'No problem . . . I really don't know what to tell you because you know [if] they want to investigate they can investigate.' An officer from the INS's Bangkok office has been temporarily transferred to Hong Kong to take up Mr DeBates' position. 'Mr DeBates is being examined for any legal or ethical breaches. All suggestions of this kind are taken very seriously,' Mr Bergeron said. If proven, the case could result in the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) in Hong Kong and the INS in the US launching legal proceedings. The discovery of a serious violation of the service's code of ethics could result in dismissal. ICAC interviewed the DeBateses two weeks ago and released them without charge. A commission source said officers were examining whether corrupt payments, trips and favours, were given in return for help with visas. Mr DeBates joined the INS in 1976 and spent several years in Washington before his 1991 posting to Hong Kong. The couple live in Mid-Levels. But yesterday a woman at the address, who described herself as a family friend, said Mrs DeBates was staying elsewhere in Hong Kong. A neighbour said the couple kept to themselves but 'appeared friendly'. Tenants at Birchwood Place in MacDonnell Road pay around $90,000 a month for a 2,000 square foot flat. Many apartments had views of the Peak and communal facilities included a clubhouse, swimming pool, and tennis and squash courts, a resident said.