A syndicate of Immigration, police and Lilongwe Handling Company (LHC) officers at Kamuzu International Airport (KIA) in Lilongwe has been exposed following a spate of botched migration deals.
Several officers from police and LHC have meanwhile either been transferred or suspended, with an inter-agency probe instituted.
According to an Immigration source, a trio of Bangladeshi migrants arrived last week and went through normal immigration checks until one female Immigration officer, suspicious of the activities of her colleagues, intervened and detained the immigrants.
The officer discovered that the trio’s passports had no visas and documentation on the purpose of their visit.
Police officers at the airport, however, took over custody of the Bangladeshis before releasing them three days later in circumstances that have led to the inquiry.
A source within the police said they are now investigating bribery allegations against the officers who took custody of the migrants after the Immigration officer detained them through a restriction order.
In a reported incident a month earlier, a Congolese was detained and arrested upon landing at Frankfurt, Germany, after using fake travel documents including a Malawian passport.
According to the Immigration source, a probe into that matter again exposed a corruption racket at the airport.
Preliminary findings, the source claimed, revealed that the Congolese travelled under the name Jailos Phiri and was not checked in the Immigration system despite his passport being booked.
The development led to the suspension of the two LHC employees who man the check-in points and were on duty on the day.
The police source said the incident involving the three Bangladeshis has led to the transfer of the KIA Police officer-in-charge and several officers from both the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and general duties as Inspector General Lexten Kachama has reacted swiftly to the preliminary findings.
When contacted, the police chief refused to comment on the matter and referred Weekend Nation to the public relations office for more information.
However, police spokesperson Rhoda Manjolo refused to comment on the ongoing investigations but she confirmed the transfers which she described as “normal”.
In an interview last week, LHC chief executive officer Francis Mkoloma confirmed the suspension of two officers was related to how ‘Phiri’ had been allowed to board a plane at KIA.
“The officers are Lewis Zimalilana and John Mlenga, who were on duty that day but we have just suspended the two pending investigations and we have not found any wrong doing yet. When the Congolese arrived in Germany he was profiled and questioned, that’s when it was discovered he was not a Malawian. He sought asylum but they sent him back,” said Mkoloma.
He further confirmed that as an aviation practice, the company is also likely to be fined to compensate the German government for the costs it incurred during the repatriation of the Congolese accompanied by a security escort pegged at over K2 million (around $4 500).
However, LHC is likely to be charged over K16 million as the German government sent four security officers to escort the illegal migrant.
“What happens is that the German government charges the airline and the airline [Ethiopian Airlines] passes the bill to us as a handling company,” said Mkoloma.
According to the police source, senior Immigration officers visited the airport last week after the scandal involving the Bangladeshis unravelled.
Immigration officials were not available for comment as an email questionnaire that had been sent to them last week was unanswered at the time of going to print.
Human rights activist Billy Mayaya on Wednesday hailed Kachama’s swift response to the matter, saying the law enforcement establishment needs to be brought back to heel, noting public trust in the institution is now at its lowest ebb. n