Ambassador to Iran resigns over visa scandal
The ambassador to Iran Svatopluk Čumba, has resigned this week amid allegations that he sold 400 short-stay visas to Iranian businesspersons that were recommended by the Czech-Slovak-Iranian Chamber of Commerce.
The General Inspection of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had previously examined the Czech embassy in Tehran for possible involvement with visa trade with hundreds of Iranians. According to their report, Jan Kavan and Zdeněk Zbytek from the Chamber of Commerce issued recommendations to the visa beneficiaries, who were soon granted with Schengen visas by the Czech embassy in Tehran, with the ambassador pushing the consular service of the embassy to process their applications with priority.
“True, I helped mediate visas for Iranian entrepreneurs,” Čumba confirmed, denying that he received any money for this and giving no more comments on the issue.
According to the Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček, there is no evidence of visa bargaining in the Czech embassy in Tehran.
“We have no direct evidence of any trade [with Schengen visas], the audit report focused primarily on those visa processes, we found some failure and we took appropriate steps in this direction,” minister Petříček said.
On the other hand, the Former Minister of Foreign Affairs and current chair of the Czech-Slovak-Iranian Chamber of Commerce Jan Kavan, denies that the embassy has committed any wrongdoing in issuing these visas. Still, in an interview for irozhlas.cz, he admits that the Chamber did send out 400 visa recommendations for Iranian entrepreneurs.
According to him, the report of the General Inspection of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs contains several inaccuracies.
“There are a number of inaccuracies in the report, starting with the main headline that Mr. Čumba was prematurely controlled because of the visas, this is not true, it can be ascertained quite easily. The article refers to anonymous high-ranking sources that do not have the courage to stand up for their own name,” Kavan insists.
He also asserts that while the ambassador did not make any violations in this case, the only mistake that the General Inspection of the MFA can name “is the so-called overuse or too frequent use of the powers that the ambassador has.”
A short-stay Schengen visa issued by the Czech Republic gives its holder to enter the Schengen Area through Czech and travel through the 26 member countries for business-doing.
During the past decade, the EU has imposed a wide range of autonomous economic and financial sanctions on Iran responding to serious human rights violation, as restrictions on trade in several goods, in the financial sector, in the transport sector as well as in the travel restrictions and asset freeze. These measures have been extended on 8 April 2019, until 13 April 2020.