|Re: Then I read that organized crime places their people in low-level bank jobs to steal IDs. In other words, identity theft is actually an inside job.|
Karen, you ain't seen nothing yet....
Where a bribe can buy an unsuspecting bride
Thursday, September 2, 2004
JOHANNESBURG The first Sylvia Tshigo knew of her marriage was the day her husband showed up at her door in March 2003, requesting a divorce. The 37-year-old Nigerian husband had in hand an official marriage certificate from South Africa's Department of Home Affairs. The certificate declared that she had married him in 2000, she said. He wanted to dissolve the marriage, he told her, because his mother in Nigeria was critically ill and he had to go home. At first, Tshigo said, she was flabbergasted. Then she was furious at the man and at the South African Ministry of Home Affairs, which handles immigration and passports, for marrying her off without so much as a fare-thee-well. "Home Affairs is supposed to be people who can be trusted," Tshigo, 31, said in a telephone interview. "I am so very disappointed."
Thousands of South African women would agree. In the past three years, the Home Affairs agency has ruefully admitted, 3,387 bewildered brides have complained that their recorded "I do's" were really "I never did's." More than 2,000 marriages have been annulled so far. Another 1,000 or so cases are under review.
The ministry itself is also under intense scrutiny. As investigators have discovered, marrying a South African woman without her knowledge was as simple as paying a bribe, averaging about $750, to one of many willing Home Affairs officials. The certificates were valuable because a foreigner who marries a South African is automatically entitled to permanent residence and a work permit.
As the most advanced nation in the region, South Africa is a magnet for immigrants seeking a new life and criminals seeking new identities. After Tshigo's ersatz marriage, for instance, her husband was hired as a doctor at a public hospital in Pretoria, enjoying the rights of a South African citizen. "That man," she said bitterly, "he has benefited a lot with my name."
Oh, and before I forget: My greetings to Manolo, your charming Mexican spouse...