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PASSPORTS SYNDICATE BUSTED

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 MBABANE – Police have unmasked a large syndicate which is allegedly assisting foreigners from different African countries to illegally obtain international and local passports.


Among the implicated are Mxolisi Tsela, who is the Head of the Immigration Department in Mankayane, Manzini Immigration Department-based Sibusiso Jele, Zanele Vilakati, who is under the Ministry of Labour and Social Security in Manzini and the Assistant Immigration of Officer in Mbabane, Ntethe Simelane.
Out of the numerous foreigners, eight of them are a Congolese family of four, who were waiting for the processing of their fraudulent documents and they were booked at Ngwane Park Lodge.


Arrested


The other four were two Zimbabwean adults and two children. They were all arrested and charged under the Immigration Act for being in the country illegally.
Other foreigners were allegedly booked at Mbabane Guest House and they were all without valid residential documents and were arrested.


Investigations revealed that all the foreigners were smuggled through the border, allegedly after negotiations with Immigration officials who permitted them to enter the Kingdom of Eswatini without stamping their passports.


The breakthrough by the police came after one of the foreigners’ agents who is also a vendor, Ricky Sibiya of Ngwane Park, spilt the beans on the syndicate after he was found in possession of a sum of E72 209.


Sibiya is a Zimbabwean who arrived in the country in 2008.
It is suspected that the money was paid by the foreigners after they were issued with the fraudulently acquired passports and it was to be distributed to the other role players.


The process, according to the agent, begins in Manzini where the particulars of those who require the passports are recorded, then taken to Mankayane where they are photographed and the final document is retrieved in Mbabane.
The syndicate is reported to be also fraudulently producing both international and local passports for foreign nationals. The suspicion is that there are currently hundreds of passports that have been fraudulently issued to non-emaSwati to travel abroad using local identities of Emaswati.


 The foreigners are said to target the Eswatini travel document because there are less stringent requirements for a possessor to obtain a visa to travel abroad.
According to the investigators, the foreigners come from countries such as Congo, Zimbabwe and South Africa,


According to a statement that was recorded by Sibiya with the police in Manzini, he allegedly met Vilakati through someone who had advised him to ask for help from her when he required a birth certificate for an old woman who lived at Maliyaduma.
He said they became friends such that she allegedly assisted him when he needed a personal identity number for a friend who wanted an Eswatini passport to travel overseas.


Sibiya told the police that after three months, through Shalome, who is an agent based in South Africa, he was contacted by people who needed PINs and he brought eight of those people to him.
He said these people also needed Eswatini passports and Shalome allegedly gave him a sum of E35 000. Sibiya revealed that he booked the eight foreigners at Ngwane Park Lodge.


“On Tuesday (November 20, 2018) we proceeded to help the eight people. That was when Alex took them to Mankayane to take the passports. Prior to that, I had communicated with Ntethe Simelane to help me to retrieve the passports. My relation with Simelane started when I was sent by Sibusiso Jele who works passport office in Manzini (sic),” reads his statement.


Collect


Sibiya alleged that Jele sent him to collect some of the passports from Simelane he and gave the latter E600.
In Mankayane (Immigration Department), according to Sibiya, the person they allegedly dealt with was Tsela, who was paid E800 for each person he assisted.
He said during one of his dealings with Tsela, he was confronted by Sibandze and Motsa who are police officers and they took him to regional headquarters. Sibiya stated that upon arrival, he was searched and the amount of E72 209 was found in his possession.


He alleged that the E35 000 had been paid by the eight foreigners and he would have shared it with one of the Immigration officers, Simelane. However, he submitted that Simelane had not retrieved the passports when he was arrested.
Detective Constable Mhlonishwa Sibandze, who is stationed at the Manzini Regional Headquarters under the Fraud and Commercial Crimes Unit, investigated this matter.


He said the police received information on November 20, 2018 that there was an employee of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security in Manzini who allegedly produced birth, marriage and death certificates.


Sibandze stated that while interviewing their source in one of the restaurants in town, a man who was carrying a portable bag passed by and their informer alerted them that the passer-by was one of the agents allegedly involved in the production of government documents.

 


The man was Ricky Sibiya, who informed the officers that he was a vendor. Sibandze said they searched his bag and he obliged. Inside the bag, Sibandze said they found an amount of E72 209.60 in both Eswatini and South African currency.


He further stated that in addition, they found two lists of Eswatini citizens’ names and identity numbers. During the interview, Sibandze said they gathered that Sibiya was allegedly an agent assisting foreigners who needed international passports.
He alleged that he was working with Vilakati (Zanele) who is employed in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security and her duty was to provide numbers.
According Sibandze, Sibiya informed them that the people (foreigners) would be taken to Mankayane to have pictures of them taken with the assistance of Tsela. Simelane, who is based at the Immigration officers in Mbabane, is alleged to have been responsible for the finalisation of the process.


Calls


Sibandze said as they interviewed Sibiya, his cellphones kept ringing and they allowed him to take the calls. He mentioned that one of the callers was a certain Nkosinathi, who talked about Zanele (Vilakati) and he said he was at Mozambique Hotel.


The police proceeded to Mozmbique Hotel where they found two South African nationals, Nkosinathi Ngwenya and Nqobile Ngwenya. Sibandze said these two individuals failed to produce their documents for being in the country and they arrested them. They were travelling in a Black VW Golf registered ISD 411 CM. Sibandze further said, there were identity numbers which were found in Sibiya’s bag which they fed into the system. He stated that passports with faces of eight foreigners found at the lodge with the identities of Emaswati were retrieved.


According to the investigators, they discovered that the immigration system revealed that the Information was entered by the head of the Immigration Department at Mankayane, who recorded a statement and denied being involved in the matter. Sibandze said Sibiya insisted that he was working with Mxolisi (Tsela).

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