Investigators lift lid on fraudulent visas, permits

Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi.

Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi.

Published Mar 6, 2024


Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi on Tuesday ruled out the arbitrary freezing of fraudulent visas and permits issued by his department’s officials to foreign nationals without following due processes.

Motsoaledi said when his department encountered fraudulent documents, those involved in fraudulent activities tried to fight back.

“They claim they are not the ones who committed fraud and would claim to have been helped by an immigration agent and say they were not aware the agent practised fraud, so we are forced to investigate,” he said.

Motsoaledi said he wished he could just freeze the affected visas.

“That is my desire and that is a desire of every member of the public,” he said.

But,the minister said, the law did not allow his department to take this route.

“When we deal with these matters we have to be careful about the laws of the country,” he said.

In January, the court found that the department’s blocking of IDs without following a fair process was invalid and unconstitutional.

The minister made the comment when he was responding to MPs’ questions when he appeared before the home affairs portfolio along with the multidisciplinary task team conducting investigations, data analytics and identifying criminal syndicates for fraud, theft, corruption and maladministration.

The task team was appointed in March last year after a ministerial task team reviewed permits and visas that were issued since 2004 and found irregularities in more than 45 000 documents.

During Tuesday’s briefing, the MPs heard about the extent of the fraudulent visas and permits, which required further investigations.

The task team’s head, Peter Bishop, said they have 25 focus areas for investigation.

Bishop said they have identified 60 officials for disciplinary referrals and two for criminal investigation by the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI).

A total of 27 charge sheets have been finalised and submitted to the department with at least five disciplinary hearings having started and 10 others have proposed set-down dates.

There were 12 disciplinary matters that have been concluded with nine officials already dismissed, one appealing a sanction and two others resigned before the hearings.

Bishop also said the task team had investigated and prepared 28 matters for referral to the DPCI and that a further 94 matters were being prepared for referral to the unit.

He added that they identified up to as many as 307 178 instances of potentially implicated individuals in unlawful and or irregular activities relating to processing of visas and permits.

The team has also identified 115 instances of officials implicated in irregular activities, 78 questionable medical reports, and 303 832 movement control system processed by officials.

There were also 3 530 retired person visas issued using similar documentation and individuals appeared too young to be retiring.

“Preliminary findings to date have identified a number of officials involved with three DHA officials appearing to have processed the bulk thereof,” he said.

Bishop revealed that a preliminary analysis led to identification of an address as a nodal point referred to in 3 193 applications for various visas or permits.

“Two DHA officials, who were stationed at the Beijing Mission in China, have each been linked to 142 and 45 of the above-mentioned applications respectively.” There were also other anomalies relating to applications linked to vacant erven and non-existent addresses.

Bishop said a legal opinion has been provided to the director-general in November 2023 providing recommendations on remedial action for certain categories of applicants.

“It is imperative that all affected parties implicated in holding fraudulent visas or permanent residence permits receive due notice.

“In instances where these individuals cannot be located for service, an application for substitution of service must be filed to guarantee that proper notification is provided for them,” he said.

The MPs also heard that a budget request was being considered for the task team to complete its work and that funds would be reprioritised for the newly approved Special Investigation proclamation into affairs of the department.

Committee chairperson Mosa Chabane said: “We will monitor the flow of implementation in relation to the work being done.”

Cape Times