Maputo — The Maputo City Court has decided to keep 16 former staff of the National Immigration Service (SENAMI) under preventive detention, while awaiting trial on charges of forging passports, visas and other documents for foreign nationals.
According to a report in Monday's issue of the Maputo daily "Noticias", the court ordered the release on bail of a further four suspects, on the grounds that they did not pose a flight risk. This group includes Principal Superintendent Cira Fernandes, the former spokesperson of SENAMI.
She was detained in connection with the granting of 17 false entry visas to Nigerian citizens. The Mozambican authorities only have records of these Nigerians entering the country, but not of them leaving.
Many of the 16 still in detention were working at the plant that produces passports and other identification documents. They are believed to have played a key role in the production of fraudulent documents.
This group includes Cidalia dos Santos, who was detained in connection with the false passport granted to the country's most notorious assassin, Momad Assife Abdul Satar ("Nini").
Satar was sentenced to 24 years imprisonment for his part in ordering the murder, in November 2000, of Mozambique's foremost investigative journalist, Carlos Cardoso. But a judge, Aderito Malhope, released Satar on parole after serving only half his sentence on the grounds, strongly contested by police and prosecutors, that he had shown "good behaviour" while in the Maputo top security prison.
Judge Malhope also authorised Satar to leave the country in 2014. He was granted permission to travel to receive medical treatment in India but made no attempt to go there. Instead he ended up in Thailand.
The Thai police detained Satar in Bangkok on 25 July 2018 in response to an international arrest warrant issued by Mozambique's Attorney General's Office (PGR) in April 2017 in connection with the wave of kidnappings that had shaken Mozambican cities since 2011.
In Thailand, Satar used a false Mozambican passport in the name of Sahime Mohammed Aslam. This name belongs to a real person, who is Satar's nephew. He is the son of Satar's elder sister, Farida Satar, who fled from Mozambique rather than face trial on charges of fraud.
It is believed that Satar or one of his associates bribed Cidalia dos Santos, to issue the fake passport.
This was enough for prosecutors to charge him with corruption, forgery and using a false name. Sahime Aslam and Cidalia dos Santos have also been charged.
Dos Santos has worked at SENAMI for more than ten years, and she is under investigation for other crimes, notably granting at least 42 Mozambican passports to Nigerians. This case came to light in August last year, when the Chinese authorities informed the PGR that they had detained 42 Nigerians holding Mozambican passports
The following investigation showed that the 42 not only are not Mozambican nationals, but have never set foot in Mozambique.