Exposed: Booming passports, birth certificate,IDs sale

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For Sh100,000 one can get a Kenyan birth certificate, school leaving certificate, national identity card certificate of good conduct, driving license.
Nairobi, Kenya: As government announced the sacking of fifteen high ranking immigrationofficials, investigations by The Standard on Sunday reveal a core of corrupt government employees working in cahoots with rogue businessmen to provide an array of paperwork that would pass as legal government-issued identification documents.

For the right price, well-connected government employees will create a whole identity for an individual, evading whatever checks and measures put in place by the government.

An ill-prepared, ill-paid, poorly motivated workforce is keen to look the other way for that extra shilling with little regard to the risk they put the country.

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For about Sh100,000 one can get a birth certificate, school leaving certificate, national identity card, certificate of good conduct, driving license as well as a Kenyan passport.

To the untrained eye, the documents being processed by the cartels involving government officials look as genuine as the original documents. It is only after very keen scrutiny, against an original document, that one would probably pick out a minor element that is different from one in a genuine document.

From the tip of Somalia, southwards to the Comoros, eastwards to the Democratic Republic of Congo and westward to the Seychelles, Kenya has for decades been the preferred destination for individuals with dodgy pasts wishing to settle into a sedentary life complete with cooked-up official documentation.

Initial contact    

It all begins with a phone call from a client to a middleman after a referral. After that, initial contact is established between the client and the provider (a government official) and a meeting place agreed upon.

As few details as possible are exchanged between the two parties. The price of each document is laid out. A birth certificate goes for Sh15,000. For another Sh20,000 one gets a national identity card. Sh15,000 gives one a school-leaving certificate. An extra Sh10,000 will get you a driving license while for Sh20,000 each, one gets a passport and a certificate of good conduct.

There is no room for bargaining as one is made to understand the dangers involved in the whole business. There are few or no questions asked.

A down payment is then made and one is told to await further instructions of when to collect the documents. Unnecessary phone calls or text messages are discouraged. All this takes a total of two weeks. But for an extra fee, the process can be fast-tracked and paperwork could be ready in between 3 to 5 days. All that is required are your “official” names, and several copies of passport size photographs. Calling to find out the progress of the documentation process is hugely frowned upon.

Sealing the deal

The documents are provided in batches. The easiest ones to get being the school leaving certificate and birth certificate, which are obtained in a single day. At this point, a tinge of mystery is introduced as the client is instructed to collect a certain envelope sent as a parcel from a particular bus service.

Patience and trust are key in this business. A brief and precise phone call is made several days later with clear concise instructions.

“Go to Times Tower and call this number. He will have your document.” With that, the driving license is delivered.

This mode of operation is repeated for the other documents. Instructions are given and a point of delivery and a pointman mentioned. One is at Nyayo House, another is at Nairobi’s Kariokor chief’s camp. An envelope changes hands and the final payments are made.

No questions asked.

In ten working days, our fictitious character Charles Njehia Kinuthia – whose photo was lifted from the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) website of inmate Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, serving a life sentence for his role in the 1998 twin United States Embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam – has five crucial identification documents.

He has a birth certificate, certificate of good conduct, ID card, driving licence and school-leaving certificate. We are told the passport had been processed and was ready for collection from Nyayo House on Monday (tomorrow).

Before he was jailed for life in 2004 in the US, Ghailani spent years on the FBI Most Wanted List with a $5 million bounty on his head.

A birth certificate obtained by our investigations team shows the Tanzania-born terrorist was born at Pumwani Maternity Hospital on the 25th of April 1991.

According to the birth certificate, his father’s name is Godane Njehia and his mother’s maiden name reads as Lewth Waite Moraa (a simple distortion of the now-notorious ‘White Widow’s official surname). A certificate of good conduct with his new name of Charles Njehia Mbuthia was purportedly issued by the Criminal Investigation Department, certifying Charles is a Kenyan national and that his fingerprints have been searched in the criminal records office and no criminal record traced.

With these documents, it would be easy for one to move within the country and the region through unofficial border openings without much of a fuss.

“With no noticeable database that flags such individuals, it would be difficult for a law enforcement officer anywhere in the country to make an arrest or at least pass on information to his superiors on any suspicious individual,” Mwalimu Mati, of Mars Group, a non-governmental oversight body told The Standard on Sunday.

“The most basic question one is asked is to produce an Identification Card. Which is no longer a preserve of rightful Kenyan citizens.”

Random fugitives and terror suspects such as Al Qaeda operative Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, who was wanted by Kenya for involvement in the Kikambala attacks and was thought to be the Al Qaeda pointman in East Africa have at some point called Kenya home.

In 1999 Turkish national Abdullah Ocalan indicted for war crimes during his reign as leader of militant organisation PKK was arrested in Kenya. Curiously, he was arrested with the help of Interpol and the CIA after being housed by a foreign diplomat. He successfully entered the country without raising eyebrows.

Génocidaire Felicien Kabuga has at one time been through our porous and corrupt immigration desks for a shot at a life of freedom devoid of suspicion or any risk of arrest.

The most recent passerby being the infamous Samantha Lewthwaite, largely believed to have spent considerable time in Kenya helping to plan the Westgate attack. Intelligence reports show she travels under a South African passport.

Measures put in place by the national government to keep harmful individuals at bay remain empty and of little consequence as corrupt government officials have mutated into merchants of identification documents.

On Friday Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Ole Lenku, at a press conference announced that 15 senior immigration officers had been sacked over illegal issuance of identity documents to foreigners. In addition, as a precautionary measure, investigators have been deployed to the Department of Immigration to help “avoid a recurrence of security lapses like we have seen in the past,” he said at the presser.

Illegal papers

“This exercise will enable us flush out all those who have been issued with illegal passports and other identification documents,” he said.

Mr Lenku said the purge of corrupt individuals would extend to other government departments, and warned those who may have been “part of the network facilitating identification documents to illegal immigrants” that their days are clearly numbered.

He said waiting cards older than three months were invalid and anyone found with them would face stern action.-standardmedia

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