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Immigration officer suspended over alleged extortion

25 May 2013 02:50 pm - 19     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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An officer of the Sri Lanka Immigration and Emigration Department has been suspended pending a full inquiry, following a complaint made by a foreigner over extortion of money allegedly by Sri Lanka Immigration officers at the Bandaranaike International Air Port, media reports said.

The action has been taken by the Controller of the Department of Immigration and Emigration W.A.C. Perera, following a media report published in eTurboNews recently about its publisher’s experience with an extortion scam by Sri Lanka Immigration Officers.

Accordingly the eTN stated that, “ it is now pleased to report that due to our article, the Controller General team of the Sri Lanka Department of Immigration and Emigration, Mr. W.A.C. Perera reached out to eTN Publisher Juergen T. Steinmetz and confirmed the following:

1) The Immigration Officer listed on your arrival records has been suspended, pending a full inquiry and investigation.

2) You will most likely be requested to appear at a hearing at a future date. Please let us know if you can indicate at which point you may be able to travel to Colombo so the hearing can be scheduled at a time and date convenient to you.

3) Incorporating your suggestions, signs clearly explaining the various visa fees have been posted at the Bandaranaike International Airport Arrival Counters.

Mr. Perera went on to say, “We deeply regret this unfortunate experience and will continue to strive to ensure such incidents do not occur to travelers visiting Sri Lanka.

“The DIE [Department of Immigration & Emigration] truly appreciates your honest and productive feedback and for your article which brought this incident to our attention.”

Juergen T. Steinmetz said: “I am very pleased the Sri Lanka immigration officials are handling this situation in a very professional and efficient way. Putting up signs with visa fees is a good step forward to avoid such confusion at the immigration check-point at Colombo airport.

“Sri Lanka is a fantastic tourism destination and the first impression when arriving at any destination is always of utmost importance.

“I congratulate the Sri Lanka authorities on taking my small complaint serious. My complaint was not directed against one particulare officer, but more a suggestion on how this type of activity could be avoided. I am very pleased the authorities in Sri Lanka took my suggestion seriously and acted so quickly. It indicates the patriotism of dedicated leaders like Mr. W.A.C. Perera and many of the Sri Lanka tourism professionals I had met over the years.”

Related story

Beware travelers to Sri Lanka of extortion scam by immigration officers
By Juergen T. Steinmetz, eTN Publisher | May 19, 2013


(eTN) - After a short and pleasant flight on SriLankan Airllines, the national airline for Sri Lanka, from the Maldives, I arrived at Colombo International Airport.
Immigration forms were given to passengers on this flight. I had the form filled out and after disembarking approached the immigration counter. The officer looked at my form and passport and asked, “Where is your visa?”

No one had explained onboard or at check-in that a visa was required to enter Sri Lanka as a tourist, but luckily there was a visa on arrival desk, and I qualified to get a visa on arrival.

I looked for a sign explaining visa fees but was unable to find such posted information.

I got in line and noticed some people paid US$20, others US$25, and others US$35.

When I approached the officer, he asked me how long I was staying in Sri Lanka. I responded that I would stay for only 2 days. This officer did not want to take my visa or my money and referred me to another officer in a white uniform. He seemed to be a supervisor.

The officer asked me twice if I was really staying for only 2 days, and then he escorted me to another officer at the immigration counter.

He asked me to pay just US$20 in cash to his colleague, and after taking my money, this officer stamped my passport and gave me a permit to stay for 48 hours.

After checking into the Colombo Hilton, I went online and pulled up the information page for Sri Lanka immigration and found out that the regular tourist visa rate was US$25, and for stays of 2 days or less a free permit was issued.

In the 20 minutes I was in line, I observed many tourists paying varied visa fees at the bank and to immigration officials directly.

I decided to call the Immigration department and explained what happened. After 5 calls, and someone hanging up on me quietly again and again, I managed to find a phone number for the Controller and Supervisor.

This time a person listened to everything I had to say, but strangely did not want my name or other details. He promised a full-scale investigation.

I hope this article will encourage Sri Lanka officials to investigate. Posting clear signs at the visa on arrival center would make it more difficult for corrupt officials to extort money from tourists and their governments.

Sri Lanka is a beautiful destination with many dedicated people doing a fantastic job with pride to showcase their country. It is my understanding that money generated from visa fees are to go to improve the infrastructure of the country, not to line the greedy pockets of a few traitors operating with a uniform.
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  Comments - 19

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  • zacky Dean Monday, 27 May 2013 04:30 AM

    when u implement more rules and regulations who is benefited? Custom Officers.They are like Crows.

    VoiceofLanka Sunday, 26 May 2013 06:39 AM

    What about CUSTOMS OFFICERS? I can promise you they use their authority in the most sickening way.

    srilankan Sunday, 26 May 2013 12:00 AM

    and who is going to pay for the ticket & lodging ? via DM Android App

    harry Sunday, 26 May 2013 01:20 AM

    If complainant can not attend the investigation the Complainant still has to prove his claim beyond reasonable doubt and the result of this plus the non-attendance of the complainant (if he decides the cost of travelling is too high) as suggested the complaint will be thrown out and no outcome is expected.
    That is lawful in a democracy and that will be the way it will go.

    Grace Saturday, 25 May 2013 03:08 PM

    This is how certain people are contributing to the decline of Tourism.

    Observer Saturday, 25 May 2013 03:45 PM

    it sure is a sad story when things like this happen almost every day and every where in Sri Lanka. Mr. Steinmetz, Thank you for taking time to write this article to wake up the Emigration officers. I am sure your 2 days in the Island were spent just for this but you have helped so many who otherwise will become the silent victims!

    Piranha Saturday, 25 May 2013 04:06 PM

    The SL immigration & emigration dept is keen to show that it is doing something in this case because the incident was reported in the foreign press. I would not advice Mr Steinmetz to set foot in Sri Lanka again because I guarantee that he will get a white van ride for tarnishing the "good" name of Sri lanka.

    sathees Monday, 27 May 2013 03:01 AM

    Not only this, what about the christmas eve murder?

    band Saturday, 25 May 2013 04:03 PM

    Juergen, Thanks a lot gentleman. Hope guys like you visit Sri Lanka frequently. You will be fully supported by honest public of our country.

    Hemantha Saturday, 25 May 2013 04:18 PM

    Thanks DM for reproducing the Etn article to ensure that the incident becomes a turning point in SL's handing of visitors. As a Lankan I am very happy that this incident received sufficient media attention.

    Api Wenuwen Api Saturday, 25 May 2013 04:14 PM

    We must get the first impression right when a foreigner enters to the country. We are a corrupt nation from top to bottom. The question is, who is going to correct this and when?

    Wasantha Saturday, 25 May 2013 04:22 PM

    There are hardly any takers for investigations by Sri Lankans. Hope the guilty will not be given a clean chit.

    Ra bomu Saturday, 25 May 2013 04:27 PM

    illang kamu.

    KD Saturday, 25 May 2013 04:25 PM

    Are you crazy man? Immigration and customs officials in SL are pure as the white uniform they wear. So are the Police and all other government officials. The Ministers and those elected never ever do anything illegal let alone take bribes. They dont even know the meaning of the word. We the citizens of Sri Lanka have never come across what you have described as such the only logical conclusion is you're part of the conspiracy. How dare you accuse our officials as corrupt ? We have never heard of anyone taking a 10% cut off all deals big or small. If any Sri Lankan in any powerful position died today they will all go straight to haven as they are so pure. That's why we are called the "miracle of Asia". Mad you are!

    doggydog Saturday, 25 May 2013 04:39 PM

    He got this reply due to two reasons. Being a foreigner and publishing the article. We Sri Lankans face the same extortion and unprofessional behaviour by immigration officers daily. Go to the immigration office and talk to a peon and there's nothing impossible.

    Sam Saturday, 25 May 2013 04:39 PM

    "You will most likely be requested to appear at a hearing at a future date. Please let us know if you can indicate at which point you may be able to travel to Colombo so the hearing can be scheduled at a time and date convenient to you."

    W.A.C. Perera, I dont think it is decent or ethical for you to ask for the petitioner to appear at his own expense. Get ur Govt to sponsor him a BC Rtrn and accommodation if you wish him to appear in ur 3rd class investigation. Hahahaha. U think a foreigner will give a damn for a Lankan request.....Fly a Kite, Mate.

    Anaconda Sunday, 26 May 2013 11:30 AM

    Rapidly declining LTTE remnants such as yourself should also adhere to the same advice!

    David Sunday, 26 May 2013 11:39 AM

    It's a good move, I hope he will not connected to defence secretariat.

    SAM Monday, 27 May 2013 04:15 AM

    You are spot on voicelanka, the most corrupt department I know.


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