Home South African Home Affairs ramping up probe into visa and permit fraud

Home Affairs ramping up probe into visa and permit fraud

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Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi is ramping up investigations into corruption in the issuing of visas and permits and this has led to the Hawks probing several officials in the department.

Minister of Home Affairs Aaron Motsoaledi said they want to clean up the department. File picture: Siyabulela Duda, GCIS

HOME Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi is ramping up investigations into corruption in the issuing of visas and permits and this has led to the Hawks probing several officials in the department.

The minister will also be meeting with the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), which was asked by President Cyril Ramaphosa to investigate corruption in the issuing of visas and permanent residence permits from 2004 until this year.

A member of the task team that was set up by Motsoaledi in March last year to probe corruption in the department, Peter Bishop, told members of the National Assembly’s Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs on Tuesday that they have made progress in probing the matters at hand.

Motsoaledi set up the task team after the Lubisi report found there were irregularities in the issuing of visas and permanent residence permits, with a number officials implicated.

“Honourable members, you will remember that we brought the Lubisi report here in front of you, which had a number of recommendations, and chief among them, was that we need to appoint a multidisciplinary team that will take forward all the issues that were unveiled during their investigation, a multidisciplinary team that will go deep in investigating to consist of forensic investigators, data analysts, people who are dealing with case management and lawyers to investigate this,” said Motsoaledi.

He said officials implicated in the fraudulent issuing of visas and permits will face arrest and internal disciplinary hearings.

He added that the task team has been operating for a year now.

Bishop said they have done investigations and found that there were instances of fraud in the approval of applications for foreign nationals in different categories.

What was also bizarre in some cases, was that if an application was rejected for one category, it would be moved to another category until it was approved.

The task team was also investigating some of the applications for visas and permits that were processed during weekends, after hours and during public holidays.

“We have legal opinion and recommendations that have been provided. As a legal opinion it was provided to the Office of the Director-General in November 2023 providing recommendations to be taken by the department in certain categories of applicants,” said Bishop.

He said they will meet with Motsoaledi and the SIU to plan how they will further probe these cases.

He said 28 officials have been referred to the Hawks. The task team was planning to refer 94 other cases to the crime-busting unit.

“In respect of up to as many identified 303,832 potentially unlawful and/or irregular MCS (movement control system) movements processed by officials of the department, 34 officials and associated number of movements authorised by each were identified and being investigated. This will form a big part of the legal opinion that we provided and will be looked at in that regard in particular,” said Bishop.

He said 61 officials were facing internal disciplinary hearings over their alleged involvement in issuing fraudulent visas and permits.

He said their investigations stem from the Lubisi report and they identified a number of areas for investigation and this includes security breaches.

Bishop said the track and trace is a system the department used before 2014. All applications in this have to be looked at because systems were circumvented.

The retirement visas had significant increases from 2016 to 2018. All retirement visas were awarded in contravention of the Immigration Act.

They were also investigating visa applications that were processed after hours, on weekends and during public holidays.

They also found that in some cases the same passport number would be used by different people.

They identified anomalies between the date the visa or permit was approved and the date on the document itself.

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