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The Department of Home Affairs twice issued a permanent residence permit to a Serbian national who is suspected of fraud in his home country and is being investigated by SA police for illegal gun possession and fraud.
However, Home Affairs says the department did not know that the Serbian government had not renewed the passport of Zoran Vlajic, although a whistle-blower who brought the fraud to the attention of the police and the department as far back as 2010 believes Home Affairs should never have made the mistake. The whistle-blower has asked not to be named for fear of being targeted by Vlajic or his associates.
In June last year a bag of home-made bombs and guns which were believed to belong to Vlajic were delivered to the Weirdabrug police station in Pretoria. The weapons included a 9mm Norinco Star pistol, 50 rounds of shotgun ammunition, 16 rounds of 9mm ammunition and two Z88 9mm pistol magazines.
At the time police sources said they suspected the man had links to the Serbian underworld. He was believed to be on the run from police. But three months later Vlajic was granted permanent residence in SA.
The whistle-blower had reported to both police and Home Affairs that the passport used to obtain the permit was fraudulently renewed – at a cost of R1 700.
Now, six months later, Vlajic has still not been deported, leaving the whistle-blower fearful.
The Sunday Independent has also seen official correspondence between detectives at the Weirdabrug police station and the Serbian Embassy. In an e-mail, dated April 30, 2012, the embassy confirms that former consul Jasmina Stankovic Tatarac said Vlajic’s passport “has never been renewed from the Yugoslavian Embassy”.
“Passports issued by the Republic of Serbia, both on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (blue passport cover) and the new biometric passports of the Republic of Serbia, cannot be renewed or extended. A new passport needs to be issued. Mr Zoran Vlajic has applied for a new biometric passport at the Embassy of Serbia on 11/04/2012.”
The Sunday Independent has also seen a letter from the embassy, dated March 26, 2012, which says the passport Vlajic used to obtain permanent residence was “invalid” .
Questions sent to the Serbian embassy went unanswered for two weeks. Department of Home Affairs spokeswoman Manusha Pillai said the department began its investigation “at the end of 2011”.
“The department discovered that Mr Zoran Vlajic misrepresented himself by submitting a fraudulent copy indicating an extension of his Serbian passport in his application for permanent residence,” she said.
However, Pillai said it was not the department’s fault: “Resident foreign missions inform the department of the conditions attached to the renewal of passports and provide a specimen. In this case, the department was not made aware that expired Serbian passports are not extended in South Africa and was therefore not able to act accordingly”. Pillai said Vlajic would be deported once the paperwork was finalised.
Meanwhile, police say they have completed investigations into charges of fraud, illegal firearms possession and homemade bombs and referred the charges to the control prosecutor in Pretoria.
“The suspect was arrested, but the court withdrew the cases and instructed that investigation be finalised first and the docket be brought back to the senior public prosecutor for decision,” police spokeswoman Colonel Noxolo Kweza said.
Kweza said Serbian police had not requested help in investigating a criminal case against Vlajic.
The Sunday Independent was unable to reach Vlajic on the cellphone number provided to Home Affairs on his permanent residence application. He did not respond to a text message sent to the number. - Sunday Independent