Home affairs official, four others, bust for passport fraud

Five people have been arrested for being part of a racket that lures South African citizens to sell their personal details to foreign nationals in order for them to get SA passports.

Nhlanhla Mathebula, 39, Mohamed Ali, 36, Gabriel Samuel van der Merwe, 32, Christopher Marillier, 38, and Sfiso Kheswa, 30, were arrested by the Hawks Serious Corruption Investigation team based in Mbombela, Mpumalanga, on May 19 in Eldorado Park, Johanneburg, and White River in Mpumalanga. 

They are facing charges of fraud, corruption and contravening the Immigration Act and will  appear in court this week for their formal bail application. The accused appeared at the White River magistrate’s court on Friday and their case was postponed to Wednesday for their bail application.

Mpumalanga Hawks spokesperson Capt Dineo Sekgotodi said꞉ “Investigations revealed that on October 13 2021, Mathebula colluded with the alleged kingpin, Ali from Pakistan, who recruited South African citizens to offer their personal details in order for foreigners to get South African passports using them in exchange of payment.

“South African citizens would use their particulars and fingerprints to apply for the passports but the photos of foreign nationals would be the ones captured. This was reportedly facilitated by home affairs officials working after hours. The South African  citizens were allegedly paid R500 each for the use of their particulars by the foreign nationals.”

Sekgotodi said Mathebula works at home affairs.

“More arrests are expected as investigation continues,” said Sekgotodi.

Sekgotodi said four more suspects, whose real names the Hawks did not know as they were using the names of South Africans, were wanted by the Hawks.

She said anyone with information on the whereabouts of the suspects should contact investigating officers Capt Samson Kolobe on 071-481-3126 and W/O Phelani Twala on 071-481-3437.

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