Pretoria – The Krugersdorp Magistrate's Court has released on bail 26 of the 27 people arrested in March for allegedly being part of a syndicate that included Home Affairs officials and Somalian nationals producing fake passports.
The man believed to be the mastermind behind the crimes, a Pakistani national, was denied bail.
The arrest of the syndicate members was hailed as a major success by the Department of Home Affairs. The arrested people included 14 South Africans while the rest were foreign nationals.
The 26 were released on R2 000 bail and the matter was postponed to July 5.
At the time of the arrest, Gauteng Hawks spokesperson Captain Ndivhuwo Mulamu said R45 000 in cash was found as well as the vehicles believed to be used by the syndicate.
Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi spoke to the media outside the Home Affairs office in Krugersdorp, where the suspects were arrested.
The minister confirmed that the suspected kingpin worked with people inside Home Affairs in a network that spanned KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Mpumalanga and Limpopo.
Two of the people arrested are Home Affairs employees. Motsoaledi said he expected more officials to be arrested.
“We identified the kingpin after an immigration alert picked up anomalies with two passports of people who wanted to leave the country via Cape Town International Airport. That official handed over the two people and their passports to the police,” Motsoaledi said.
It is alleged that the leader charged about R40 000 for a fake passport. The two Home Affairs officials allegedly made R5 000 to R10 000 per passport.
According to the minister, the head of the syndicate would get foreign nationals who wanted passports but did not qualify for them. A runner would then recruit South African citizens who had never applied for a passport before.
The Home Affairs officials or “lieutenants” would secure an office where they could authenticate the documents.
“It is alleged that the kingpin bought cars for his lieutenants, presumably to enable them to be at his disposal day and night. In other words, the lieutenants were always available to the kingpin when he needed them,” Motsoaledi added.