The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Police Bust Fake Documents Ring

FOUR people, including an immigration officer, were arrested last week after being found in possession of more than 10 fake security date stamps and blank copies of various registration forms.

The gang had capacity to issue voter registration forms, fake drivers licences, birth certificates, death certificates, passports and marriage certificates.

They could also counterfeit route permits for commuter omnibuses, vehicle registration documents and certify documents.

Also recovered from the suspects were more than 150 blank voter registration forms, a serial number printer, blank MDC-T membership cards, blank marriage certificates and blank birth certificates.

The four also had fake date stamps for the district registry office at Market Square, the clerk of court at Bulawayo Magistrates Courts, the Department of Immigration Control Headquarters, the Central Vehicle Registry and the district registry at Seke.

Other fake date stamps were for exit at the Harare International Airport, work permits, Masvingo provincial registry, Chegutu Rural District Council and for a legal practitioner conveyancer and commissioner of oaths.

One of the recovered date stamps was written in Chinese.

Immigration officer Tendai Mapfaka, former immigration officer Monarch Chibiko, Farai Bhani, a taxi driver, and a clearing agent Ephraim Matiza were arrested by immigration officials in Harare.

Their arrest follows that of two South Africans - Waylaind Bester and Karen Bester - who were found in possession of fake residence permits and linked them to the four.

Assistant regional immigration officer Mr Francis Mabika yesterday confirmed the recovery of the fake date stamps and documents.

"I can confirm that we carried out investigations on the two (Waylaind and Karen) and at the moment we cannot divulge any other information as investigations are still in progress," he said.

Sources close to the investigations said Waylaind and Karen obtained fake residence permits when they entered Zimbabwe.

When they sought to renew the permits, they gave their passports to a Mr Moto, a director of a security company who was still on the run.

Moto was given an undisclosed amount of money before he handed the passports to Chibiko, a former immigration officer.

It is alleged that Chibiko then passed the passports to Bhani who is reported to have handed them over to Mapfaka.

Mapfaka wanted to extend the residence permits and during the process his colleagues at the immigration offices discovered that they were fake.

Investigations were carried out leading to the arrest of Waylaind, Karen and Bhani.

Following the arrest, immigration officials searched Bhani's house in Queensdale and found the fake date stamps, fake documents and blank documents.

Further investigations led to the arrest of Matiza in Chitungwiza.

His house was searched leading to the recovery of blank birth certificates, road route permits, a serial number printer, three passports belonging to unknown people, a stamp for the Masvingo provincial registrar and 10 cellphones believed to have been stolen.

The four were still assisting with investigations.

Mr Mabika urged foreigners who have residence permits, but did not obtain them at any of their immigration offices to have them verified.

He said they would not hesitate to arrest anyone found violating the Immigration Act.

Cases of the production of fake documents are on the increase in the country.

The Immigration Department recently investigated a Harare businessman accused of defrauding several foreigners after issuing them with counterfeit residence permits.

A number of people were also arrested in recent months for possessing fake drivers' licences and other documents.

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