CRIMINALS are taking advantage of lax systems to acquire plastic identity documents (IDs) using pseudo names or other people’s real ID numbers.
BY CHARLES LAITON
They make use of them to commit crimes including withdrawing money from people’s bank accounts.
Investigations by The Standard revealed that the fake IDs would have the criminal’s real picture but carrying another person’s ID numbers and other details such as date and place of birth.
This enables criminals to commit crimes in other people’s names or to withdraw cash from their victims’ bank accounts without tracing the offence to them.
Of late, criminals have also been able to steal people’s property using forged plastic IDs and in some cases such IDs are presented in courts to facilitate fictitious divorces of couples living continents apart.
A senior official from the RG’s office told The Standard that the current plastic ID system was open to abuse by criminals as opposed to the metal IDs that were difficult to acquire or manipulate due to security procedures that were involved in getting one.
To get a metal ID, one was first issued with a temporary certificate while verifications were being made by police’s CID department to ascertain if one had a criminal record or not.
“Although the current system is faster, it is also open to abuse because a person does not need any clearance to get a replacement of an ID or to get it for the first time,” said the official.
He added: “One can acquire as many IDs as they like provided they present themselves with the ID numbers and names of persons they know.
These days fingerprints are not sent anywhere for verification. They are just kept at our offices and not sent to the police Criminal Investigation Department, which used to be the case long ago.”
The recent arrest of passport officers at the Registrar-General’s Office in Chinhoyi exposed security laxity that was brought about by change over from the traditional metal IDs to the current plastic ones.
The officers — Gosleth Muchemwa, Godwin Makusha and Never Kuitanda — were charged with abuse of office after they allegedly attempted to process a passport for a suspected fugitive Bangladesh spy agent, Mirosvic Popovic who had managed to obtain a plastic ID using a fictitious name.
A Harare man, Isaac Jason of Mbare said he lost money from his account after his plastic ID and bank cards had been stolen.
“Last year, I went to the bank to get my cash, two weeks after getting a replacement for my stolen ID and I was surprised to be told that there was nothing in my account because I had made some withdrawals,” said Jason. “Checks were made and indeed my ID numbers and fake signatures appeared on the withdrawal slips meaning somebody acquired another ID using my particulars.”
Efforts to get a comment from Registrar General Tobaiwa Mudede proved fruitless at the time of going to print.
However, police spokesperson, chief superintendent Paul Nyathi confirmed they had received several cases involving forged plastic IDs.
He however could not give figures saying he was not in the office.
“Indeed there are such cases that have been received by police but as regards the actual statistics I would need to confirm with my office because at the moment I am out of office attending to other official duties,” said Nyathi.
“You can contact me on Monday for actual statistics.”