Thursday, 14 April 2022 14:47

Immigration Officer arrested in connection with R110K per person smuggling scam.

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

Home Affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi has announced the arrest of an immigration officer at Johannesburg's OR Tambo International Airport after it emerged the official helped facilitate the entry of five Bangladeshi nationals into the country without the required immigration documents.

Motsoaledi noted that the arrested official is a key link in an elaborate and well-coordinated international syndicate that operates in South Africa and Bangladesh.

"At this airport, the network of the syndicates involves an immigration officer and other role-players such as a member of the ground handling staff, cleaners, security personnel as well as the law enforcement agencies.

"In Bangladesh, the syndicate includes a runner who recruits Bangladeshis who do not qualify to visit South Africa and members of the airline. All of these operations are coordinated by a kingpin. The kingpin charges them around R110,000.

"Then, a member of the airline smuggles the rogue Bangladeshis by either providing false names of the passenger or by not including the name of the passenger in the list of travellers on the flight."

A separate runner at OR Tambo International Airport takes pictures of landmarks that the illegal travellers need to follow to navigate the airport, as well as a picture of the counter they need to go to. These pictures are then sent to the kingpin and are forwarded to help the rogue travellers.

"On arrival, they hang around the restroom facilities and the transit area until the immigration counters are not busy. A signal is given by another runner to go to the pre-identified official who then processes them for entry without valid documents – in violation of the Immigration Act, Motsoaledi said.

"Sometimes, the lawbreakers are wheeled in via those rubbish bins with wheels to avoid security and other scrutiny," the minister said.

The immigration officer or runner is paid around R60,000 for each lawbreaker who is facilitated into the country. This amount is shared with other members of the network involved in the criminal act.

"The arrest of this immigration official is going to lead to the arrest of other immigration officials and other members of the syndicate. We shall also follow up to establish how these five Bangladeshis were allowed to board the aircraft and to make sure that that airline is brought to book.

"Ordinarily, each traveller has to be cleared by our Operations Centre in Pretoria which operates for 24 hours. Airlines have to submit the full list of everyone on board their aircraft through the Advanced Passenger Processing system."