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US Investigating Fraudulent Visas Issued in Qatar - 2002-07-09

U.S. officials have launched an investigation into how as many as 70 people were able to enter the United States on fraudulent visas, all of them traced to the U.S. embassy in Qatar. More than 30 people have been taken into custody as part of an on-going investigation.

U.S. immigration agents were unable to detect the fraudulent visas before those who obtained them had already entered the United States. Now, authorities are actively looking for as many as 29 people, most of whom are still believed to be in the country.

A senior U.S. official says all of the visas appear to have been issued by the U.S. embassy in Qatar sometime last year. The State Department is looking into whether the visas were issued by embassy employees or were counterfeit documents.

A U.S. official says it's premature to say whether anyone who traveled to the United States on one of these fraudulent visas has appeared on any terrorist watch list - or whether those believed to be in the country are suspected of any other illegal acts.

All one official would say is that it appears this case of visa fraud was confined to the U.S. embassy in Qatar but that other governments are cooperating in what has become an on-going investigation.