Russians detained on visa fraud charges in US
Vyacheslav Manokhin, a Russian citizen employed by the United Nations as a translator, is facing charges of visa fraud. He was arrested on Monday and accused of using his UN position to help foreigners enter the U.S. illegally by providing false documents
The criminal complaint, filed by the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, alleges that the scheme had been operating since 2005 and was part of a global network that provided fake documents to foreigners in exchange for payments of as much as $US 15,000 per person.
Mr Manokhin allegedly used UN letterhead paper purported to be signed by a non-existent UN official and using his influence to help at least 14 foreigners enter the country illegally for conferences that didn't even exist.
The U.S. District Court in Manhattan has set a bail of $US 300,000 for Mr Manokhin.
According to a UN official, the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), the UN's internal watchdog, had worked through the Office of Legal Affairs with U.S. authorities, at their request.
“We had already waived his immunity a week earlier, on July 27. In terms of any further administrative action I’ll have to wait and see whether that’s taken,” said UN associate spokesman Farhan Haq.
He also mentioned Mr Manokhin had not been suspended from his UN job.
According to prosecutors, another Russian, Vladimir Derevianko, was involved in the scheme. If the defendants are found guilty, they could face a maximum punishment of five years' imprisonment.
Both pleaded not guilty to the charges on Monday, and lawyers for both have said they will contest the allegations.
Russian Foreign Ministry
Russia will protect the interests and rights of a Russian national arrested in the United States Monday on suspicion of organising a fraudulent visa scheme. Russia’s Consulate General in New York is taking steps to find out the fate of Vyacheslav Manokhin, and is seeking permission to meet with him. The Foreign Ministry is ready to ensure the protection of the Russian citizen's legal rights and interests.
The third defendant and a citizen of Uzbekistan, Kamiljan Tursunov, is accused of paying $US 15,000 in order to enter the country.
Reaction from the Russian Foreign Ministry was immediate:
“Russia will protect the interests and rights of a Russian national arrested in the United States Monday on suspicion of organising a fraudulent visa scheme. Russia’s Consulate General in New York is taking steps to find out the fate of Vyacheslav Manokhin, and is seeking permission to meet with him. The Foreign Ministry is ready to ensure the protection of the Russian citizen's legal rights and interests,” says the Russian Foreign Ministry’s statement.
The Russian mission to the United Nations in New York also responded.
“The documents of the request from American attorney have been received by the Secretary. On July 27 the Secretary informed the U.S. attorney that the Secretary General had waived Mr Manokhin's immunity,” commented Maria Zakharova, spokesperson for the Russian mission.
It is not the first time the UN has been embroiled in a scandal involving illicit actions of its employees. The most well-known one is the Oil-for-Food scandal. Now, a UN employee is facing charges that can result in a maximum punishment of 5 years.