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US mission mute on visa procedures after Sestak scandal

Friday, May 31, 2013, 13:52 GMT+7
US mission mute on visa procedures after Sestak scandal
Michael T. Sestak, former head of the non-immigrant visa department of the U.S. Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City

The U.S. diplomatic mission in Vietnam has remained inexplicably silent on concerns that it will be harder for Vietnamese to get visas to the U.S. after former visa chief Michael Sestak was arrested in southern California in mid-May for allegedly granting non-immigration visas to locals for millions of dollars.

>> Sestak spends visa bribes on properties in Thailand

>> Ex-US visa officer receives money via conspirators>> Sestak approves visas for associates of co-conspirators

>> Visa seller Sestak once regarded as ‘devoted and professional’

>> Clues from IP addresses in Sestak’s visa scam

>> Investigative leads in Sestak’s visa-for-money scam

>> Visa bribery case: how did ex-US officer make money?

>> US officer takes bribes from Vietnamese seeking visas

Sestak worked as chief of the non-immigration visa unit at the U.S. Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City from August 2010 to September 2012, when he left for active-duty service with the U.S. Navy, according to public court documents seen by Tuoi Tre.

Sestak and his five accomplices charged visa seekers between $50,000 and $70,000, but they would sometimes demand less, U.S. State Department investigator Simon Dinits said in an affidavit.

Readers, as well as many other Vietnamese who are applying, or intend to apply, for a visa to the U.S. have expressed their concern that it would be harder for them to get one, as stricter procedures may be adopted, following detailed reports on this shocking scandal in both the English and Vietnamese versions of Tuoi Tre.

The U.S. Embassy and Consulate General in Vietnam have yet to issue any official statement about this issue despite Tuoi Tre’s efforts to obtain comment.

It is possible that the mission is trying to handle this crisis, but one of the most basic lessons on crisis management is transparency and a quick response to queries, which the U.S. has preached about.

And it is necessary to answer questions about the Sestak scandal, even though it could simply be an isolated case.

Last weekend and Monday were U.S. holidays, but it is quite puzzling that the embassy and the consulate have not responded to any phone calls, emails, or faxes from Tuoi Tre since Tuesday.

This is a deafening silence when local media are trying to provide credible information to readers and those who have paid US$140 for their applications to be considered.

A Tuoi Tre reporter contacted the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia for information on the legal proceedings against Michael Sestak and was told by Bill Miller, who is in charge of press inquiries, that Sestak is still detained in California while waiting to be transferred to Washington D.C. A D.C. court is making arrangements for Sestak’s trial, Miller said.

Meanwhile Jennifer Sestak, Sestak’s sister, who had purportedly received $150,000 from his co-conspirators, refused to comment on this charge when Tuoi Tre reached her in Florida.

The U.S. has yet to contact Vietnam for cooperation in handling this case.

Tuoi Tre

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