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Cops bust R500 passport syndicate

The 27 people, believed to be part of a passport processing syndicate, were remanded in custody until April. File Picture: Supplied.

The 27 people, believed to be part of a passport processing syndicate, were remanded in custody until April. File Picture: Supplied.

Published Mar 29, 2022

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Pretoria – A group of 27 people have appeared before the Krugersdorp Magistrate’s Court, after being charged with corruption in terms of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act in relation with the alleged fraudulent passport syndicate.

Gauteng regional spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Phindi Mjonondwane said the arrest happened after a multi-disciplinary operation, involving the Hawks’ serious organised crime investigation, the cash-in-transit task team, department of home affairs’ anti-corruption unit, and the Joburg central tactical response team.

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“The sting operation was conducted at the offices of the Krugersdorp department of home affairs in the early hours of Friday, 25 March 2022,” Mjondondwane said.

“Law enforcement authorities received a tip-off about the alleged passport making syndicate that works with home affairs officials, to identify South Africans (SA) that are willing to sell their identities for R500.”

The South African citizens’ details would then be used to produce a passport for the foreign nationals, which would be sold at R40 000 each.

“The case has been postponed to 5 April 2022, for bail preparation investigations and all accused were remanded in custody,” Mjonondwane said.

Last week, IOL reported that a Pakistani man and 27 others were arrested in Krugersdorp, Gauteng, on Thursday night in a joint sting operation which cracked the fake passport syndicate.

Of those arrested, 14 were foreign nationals and 14 were South Africans, according to Hawks Gauteng spokesperson Carol Mulamu, who was at the scene.

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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, on Thursday night.

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.

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Two of those arrested were 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.

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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 said.

IOL

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