Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi has welcomed the 15-year direct imprisonment sentence handed down to a corrupt immigration practitioner behind a fraudulent South African permit scam.
The Pretoria Magistrate’s Court sentenced Nasi Seqola, an immigration practitioner and her accomplice, Ethiopian national Biru Yosef Alem, who holds a permanent residence permit, to 15 years behind bars without an option of a fine.
Permit scam sting operation
Seqola and Alem were convicted in October 2021 and were sentenced on 04 April 2022.
Seqola had tried to recruit an official from the Government Printing Works (GPW) to print blank 5,000 permits. In return, the official was promised R150,000.
But the official reported Seqola’s plans to the Counter Corruption Branch, which worked with other law enforcement officials to set up the sting.
GPW printed the 5,000 blank permits which were then handed over to law enforcement officers.
These permits were used in the sting when Seqola paid over the R150,000.
Law enforcement officers moved in after payment was made and confiscated the cash and the permits. The permits were then returned to GPW.
“This avoided what could have been a catastrophe in terms of permitting.
“We congratulate the patriotic GPW official who resisted huge amounts of money and remained honest to his job and his country,” said Motsoaledi.
In this scheme, Alem would have recruited foreign nationals who do not qualify for South African permits, and for a fee, bring them to Seqola, who would have completed a fraudulent permit and then used her corrupt contacts at Home Affairs to insert such a permit in the database.
Immigration practitioners are not affiliated to Home Affairs
Motsoaledi emphasised that immigration practitioners are not Home Affairs employees, they are third party private practitioners who target African foreigners looking for permits to remain in the country.
Motsoaledi said that some immigration practitioners have had a corrosive effect on Home Affairs service delivery.
“They corrupted a lot of Home Affairs officials and by extension tried to launch an attack on the sovereignty of our country,” said the minister.
In fact, immigration practitioners have become so blatant about their corrupt tendencies, that they audaciously advertised shorter turnaround times than the Home Affairs stipulated periods to process documents.
“They must not be confused with immigration officers who are uniformed Department of Home Affairs officials,” he said.
Motsoaledi further warned that some of these immigration practitioners are not affiliated with any professional statutory body that regulates their conduct.
“Alarmingly, some do even not have verifiable business premises,” said the minister.
In a desperate bid to gain an advantage over their competitors, some of them have resorted to bribing corrupt Home Affairs officials to get the applications of their clients expedited.
The practice became so prevalent that the department had to stop recognising and regulating them in 2014 when it amended the Immigration Act of 2002 and issued new regulations.
“Anybody who needs a Home Affairs service can come and apply directly and do not need to involve a third party,” advised Motsoaledi.
“This sentence reflects the severity of the crime. People who do not respect the country’s immigration laws must face the full might of the law,” he added.
After Alem has finished serving his time, he will be deported back to Ethiopia.
Compiled by Narissa Subramoney