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DURBAN - Home Affairs’ internal investigations unit cracked open a fraud syndicate operating at the oThongathi branch on Friday.

An employee, together with an “agent” in KwaMashu, were arrested, and more arrests were expected.

KwaZulu-Natal Home Affairs provincial manager Cyril Mncwabe said the employee would appear in court soon, facing charges of fraud and corruption, relating to issuing fraudulent passports.

An “agent” finds a South African citizen, who, desperate for money, agrees to apply for a passport. When the person arrives at the branch, the official uses all the details of the South African, but swops their photograph for that of a foreigner.

“The passport is then issued in the South African’s name, but with the foreigner’s image, making it easy for the foreigner to pass off as a South African,” said Mncwabe.

The South African was promised a job or about R500.

The agent is believed to charge up to R30 000 for finding a South African citizen and paying the Home Affairs official to push through the passport.

“The official who was caught said she was paid R1000. We will be doing more investigations,” he said.

About 44 cases have been linked to the employee, but a source said this could rise to more than 200.

The foreigner, usually from another African country, uses the fake passport to apply for clothing and cellphone contracts, clothing on account, opening a bank account, and in some cases applying for a visa.

“The implications for the South African is that they can have huge credit taken out in their names, or when they do want to open a bank account, they will not be able to do so,” said an official.

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