Suspicions raised over passports of pastor charged with human trafficking

Picture: Thinkstock

Picture: Thinkstock

Department of Home Affairs employee said that by face value he could say that the passports were authentic, however, he suggested that the original documentation be handed over so that he could do the necessary checks for verification.

Suspicions were raised in the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court on Friday, on information contained in the passport of a Nigerian pastor charged with human trafficking and sexual assault.

Testifying on the third day of the pastor’s bail application, an employee from the Department of Home Affairs, Ivan Claasen, conceded to the State that he had found it strange that an immigration officer would stamp the pastor’s new Nigerian passport while there was no visa details in the booklet.

According to information before court, the pastor’s old passport expires in August this year. Claasen told the court that the department’s movement system showed that when the pastor last left the country, he had used a new passport which expires in 2021 and did so on three occasions.

As Magistrate Thandeka Mashiyi perused the pastor’s passports, of which there are four, it emerged that stamps from Japan, Israel and the United States of America reflected in the pastor’s travel documentation.

“Yes, I do find it strange because [his] visa was in the old passport. The suspicion is that you scan this [new] passport but the visa is in a different passport,” said Claasen.

“I need to check with officials at OR Tambo [International] Airport [in Johannesburg] if procedures were followed, if a passport is used a visa will also need to be scanned.”

Claasen told the court that normally when a person applies for a new passport, the old passport is taken in.

“What is strange is that the old passport has not yet expired but he is in possession of a new one,” Claasen said.

Claasen said that by face value he could say that the passports, including the visa were authentic, however, he suggested that the original documentation be handed over so that he could do the necessary checks for verification.

“I can’t check security features on a copy I need the originals.”

Claasen also told the court that it was possible to verify, through the South African embassy, the allegation that the pastor had been arrested for fraud in the United Kingdom and deported to South Africa after European authorities found his travel documentation to be falsified.

By way of affidavit the father of three has vehemently denied this allegation made by the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (known as the Hawks).

Advocate Alfonso Hattingh, for the defence dug into this.

“What hope is there? The allegation that he was arrested in the UK and deported in 2000. He has Nigerian citizenship, how was he deported from the UK to [South Africa]? Keep it in mind when doing your investigation.”

The State believes that the pastor is a flight risk and will interfere with witnesses if released on bail. The investigating officer, warrant officer Peter Plaatjies, previously told the court that investigators were unable to obtain his two passports and work permit despite several attempts.

The pastor, who is based in Durban, is alleged to have trafficked more than 30 girls and women who were from various branches of his church countrywide. He allegedly took the girls to a house in Umhlanga, in KwaZulu Natal, where he sexually exploited them.

According to the testimony of Plaatjies, senior members of the church would recruit “vulnerable” girls between 13 and 15 and lure them into performing sexual acts with the pastor. Following a foiled attempt to effect an arrest in Bloemfontein over the Easter weekend, the televangelist was arrested by the Hawks on April 20, at the Port Elizabeth airport and has been in custody ever since.

By way of affidavit, the pastor has vehemently denied allegations of sex with naked girls.

The 58-year-old father is facing 22 counts of human trafficking and sexual assault.

The bail hearing was postponed to May 12, for the Department of Home Affairs to verify the pastor’s travel documentation.

– African News Agency (ANA)


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