Britain Says Local Company Has No Say in Russian Visa Process

A company hired by Great Britain to collect visa applications in Russia has “absolutely no involvement with the decision-making process,” Britain’s Home Office has said, according to the Associated Press.

The company, TLSContact, is “simply an application point,” according to a statement, which clarifies that final decisions regarding visas are made in the UK.

The statement late Friday came in response to an investigation published by investigative group Bellingcat and Russian website The Insider. The investigation aims to show how Russian military intelligence officers, charged with poisoning a former Russian spy on British soil, obtained U.K. visas.

According to the investigation, Russian security agency FSB had planned to use an undercover agent as an employee at the company to try and breach the confidential information flow of visa applicants at the application processing company, as well as to compromise the actual visa issuance system at the British consulate.

Vadim Mitrofanov was asked in June 2016 by his FSB handler if it was possible to organize visas for “a couple of guys who need to visit the UK.” “It’s important that their passports are accepted and approved directly by the consulate, without any review and background checks and without leaving any trace in the visa centerm,” the FSB handler had told him. Vadim had replied that this was virtually impossible unless they had an insider at the embassy.

The investigation didn’t demonstrate a clear link between these efforts and the Russian spies charged in the poisoning case.