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Pakistanis nabbed with fake permits at airport

Pascalinah Kabi

SIX Pakistanis were on Friday nabbed as they attempted to enter the country using fraudulent documents through Moshoeshoe I International Airport in Maseru.

The six Pakistanis were caught red-handed with fraudulent pending permits allowing them to stay in Lesotho until January 2019. The Pakistanis however, did not have Entry Visas and upon interrogation by the immigration officers at the airport, they produced neither the visas nor details of the persons they were visiting in the country.

This publication is in possession of the copies of the passports bearing the alleged fake permits stamps.

The Ministry of Home Affairs is now preparing to deport the six who had fraudulently acquired permits.

The Deputy Home Affairs Minister, Machesetsa Mofomobe, confirmed the developments to this publication yesterday saying the six would be deported “soon”.

Mr Mofomobe said government was working hard to curb illegal issuance of documents and added that the government would soon introduce an electronic permits issuance system for foreigners.

“I think there are six of them and we are making preparations to deport them as soon as possible,” Mr Mofomobe said.

“I received a call from the Principal Secretary (‘Machabana Lemphane-Letsie) yesterday (Friday) informing me that there were Pakistanis detained at the airport. They had fake pending permits stamps and we had to deny them entry into the country. They also did not have addresses of people they were visiting in Lesotho.”

He said pending permits applicants were still being processed manually and that left the process open to abuse by conmen.

“It looks like they went somewhere to get the fake stamps. These are fake stamps, they were never processed at the Ministry of Home Affairs and we suspect that they went somewhere to acquire their own fake stamps and stamped their passports,” he said.

Mr Mofomobe said the government was already making plans to curb this practice and that a joint venture of Lesotho and South African companies would roll-out an online permits’ application.

“Visas are already issued electronically and soon enough we will enroll the same programme on permits. The permits will be barcoded and this will curb practices like this one,” Mr Mofomobe said.

The six, who arrived in the country aboard a 4:10pm plane, were detained at the airport until the police arrived at around 9:30pm and were taken to the police holding cells.

“They looked very comfortable when they disembarked from the plane and handed over their passports to the immigration officers,” said the source at the airport.

“You could tell that they were informed well ahead that they would be able to pass without any hassles.”

The source added that all pending permits stamps looked genuine until an error was spotted on one.

The stamp indicated that the bearer of the passport was permitted to stay in the country until 20 March 2029. However, the two was visibly altered into a one to make the permit valid until 2019, which made the officials question the authenticity of the permits.

The source said it did not also make sense that the six Pakistanis were able to acquire pending permits but did not have valid visas granting them entry into the country.

“It made no sense that they managed to get pending permits allowing them to stay in the country for months yet they did not have visas. A visa is a prerequisite for one to enter the country. You cannot have a permit to stay in any country without a visa unless one doesn’t need a visa to visit that country,” the source said.

A Friday evening visit to the airport by this publication confirmed that the six were indeed detained at the airport until 9:30pm that night. The publication was however, denied entry into the airport.

A lady who identified herself as Kutloano said: “I will not allow you to enter the airport now because it is already closed”.

“The first flight is at 10am and that is the only time you will be allowed entry into this yard.

“I will still not give you the interview tomorrow but you will talk to the Pakistanis, not me. I am only responsible for opening and closing this airport and therefore I don’t give interviews,” Ms Kutloano said before the vehicle she was travelling in sped off the airport gate.

A 7am visit by this publication to the airport however, revealed that the police arrested the six on Friday at around 9:30 pm.

“The police came here at around 9:30pm and they left with them in a minibus. They are now with the police but we don’t really know the station that they have been kept at,” the source said.

Contacted for comment, police spokesperson Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli said he was at a funeral.

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