Immigration lawyer faces over 1 000 charges

Cape Town – Prominent Cape Town immigration lawyer Craig Smith faces more than 1 100 charges ranging from racketeering, incitement, fraud, forgery, uttering and money laundering.

He is set to appear at the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on Friday.

Smith, 49, was arrested on Monday along with his wife, Cornelia Alexa Smith, 49, and his employee Shafieka Salie, 51.

According to the State, they operated an enterprise in Smith’s firm, Craig Smith and Associates (CSA) between October 2011 and July 2014.

Smith allegedly deducted tax and unemployment insurance fund (UIF) contributions from his employees’ salaries, but did not remit the money to the SA Revenue Service and the Department of Labour.

They have been charged with corruption for allegedly paying bribes to certain Department of Home Affairs officials based in Cape Town in exchange for the “legalisation” of clients who had overstayed their permits.

Smith’s offices were raided in 2014 by the department because he was allegedly operating a fraudulent scheme, selling work permits to immigrants.

Smith turned to the Western Cape High Court, labelling the raid unlawful and invalid. He was successful in his application and the department was ordered to return his files, computers and hardware.

The department was, however, granted a preservation order to copy the documents in pursuing a case against Smith, allowing them the opportunity to continue with their investigation.

Yesterday, Hawks spokesperson Philani Nkwalase said investigations into the Smith’s alleged misrepresentation started in 2015, by the Hawks’ Serious Corruption Investigation.

“On Tuesday, the three were taken to court and Cornelia Smith was released on  bail, of which R100 000 is payable in 72 hours, whilst Salie’s bail was set at R1 000. Craig Smith is still in custody and is expected to apply for bail this Friday (tomorrow),” he said.

Smith’s wife and Salie are expected back in court on May 24.

National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila said yesterday the company had been added to the charge sheet.

According to the charge sheet, while clients of CSA were aware of the fraudulent activities in some cases, there were many other instances where they were unaware and were being supplemented with forged documents and false information.

The State said for more complex documents that needed to be forged, Russian IT specialist Nikita Gaidouk would be tasked with creating the necessary documents for Smith and would be paid for doing so. Gaidouk ran an IT business named The Alika.

The State said if Smith felt a foreign national with a job offer required more skills and qualifications to obtain the permit, Gaidouk would be tasked with creating fictitious qualifications.

Forged bank powers of attorney, medical aid membership certificates, wills or testaments, lease agreements, bank statements, and even medical reports were all offered.

Lotte Manicom of the Scalabrini Centre, an organisation assisting refugees and asylum seekers, said it advised any non-national to be vigilant when using the services of immigration consultants or attorneys.

“Although we work with asylum seekers and refugees, we regularly interact with non-nationals who are desperate to document themselves and, through this desperation, are prone to the services of fraudulent immigration consultants and even fraudulent lawyers – even if they are not aware of such fraudulence.

“If a person cannot provide the required documentation for a visa in South Africa (unless you have a requirement waived), you simply cannot apply for that visa.

“So any immigration lawyer that advises you otherwise should be questioned,” she said.

By IOL News.

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