Ministry of Home Affairs has said police have arrested four foreign nationals in connection with the missing 250 passports at the Immigration Department last year.
Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security Cecilia Chazama said in an interview yesterday that those arrested are Congolese, Rwandan, Burundian and Nigerian nationals.
“The arrest of the four by Fiscal Police is a huge step forward in busting a ‘syndicate’ that has been targeting the Malawi passport for sale to international criminals,” she said.
A reliable source in the Immigration Department said a foreign national who was found with one of the stolen passports implicated the others as the source of the documents.
The source said a team of investigators from Immigration Department, Malawi Police Service (MPS) and the Ministry of Home Affairs and Internal Security went to South Africa and other countries a few months ago to investigate the missing passport booklets numbered MW853501 to MW853750.
National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera on Tuesday said it is too early to divulge more details about what has exactly transpired since investigations are still underway.
But Mzimba West legislator Harry Mkandawire, who during the last sitting of Parliament criticised government’s handling of the matter when it first came up, claimed in an interview on Wednesday that the State was involved in the theft of the booklets.
Mkandawire first raised the alarm in May this year, saying a consignment of passports that Immigration Department received on December 9 2016, from Technobrain, the supplier of the booklets, had one box containing 250 blank passports missing.
He said a stores clerk refused to sign for the consignment, but a senior official signed for it, although a box was missing.
“At first, parliamentarians were of the view that relevant parliamentary committees should independently investigate the theft. The government refused and told us to wait for a ministerial statement, which is not coming up to now. Then, we now hear that a Nigerian who was interrogated in South Africa was allowed to walk free. That guy would have implicated senior government officials and that is why he was let free,” he said.
But Principal Secretary for Ministry of Home Affairs Sam Madula, who yesterday also confirmed the arrests, said the Nigerian escaped from the hands of the South African security officers after being interrogated.
“But we had already extracted the information that we needed by the time he disappeared. There was nothing that we could do to extradite him. So, what we know is that he is still in South Africa, but we do not know his whereabouts. However, we are continuing to make arrests from the information that he gave us,” he said. n