Shock way cocaine smugglers are getting to Australia
Exclusive: A Nigerian national caught attempting to smuggle 1.15 kilos of cocaine into Sydney was found carrying a corruptly issued Australian student visa, in a case which triggered a high-level, wide-ranging, multi-departmental investigation into a cash-for-visas scandal in South Africa.
It has been revealed for the first time Nigerian drug runners were using the student visas "bought" from the Australian High Commission in Pretoria to facilitate their attempts to smuggle drugs into Australia.
Documents released under Freedom of Information laws show the Nigerian, was discovered with internally concealed drugs attempting to fly from Lagos, Nigeria to Sydney using a fraudulent issued student visa granted by staff in the Australian High Commission in Pretoria.
The documents released by the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity reveal the arrest of the Nigerian, three years ago, was followed up with an "intelligence analysis" which had already uncovered a string of drug cases involving Nigerians on student visas.
The Home Affairs Intelligence Division and the Australian High Commission in Nairobi, Kenya were called in to investigate and identified a link between the offshore nationals engaging in criminal activity and the visas being granted by a department officer working at the High Commission in Pretoria.
At the time that office handled visa applications for many African countries.
The documents also revealed a number of visas appeared to have been sold to "persons of interest" in the drug smuggling cases and that the visas had been granted for personal gain of the High Commission staff involved.
Further investigations identified another 11 student visas granted in the following year 2017 that were allegedly "deliberately granted … without applying the appropriate assessment processes in circumstances where the applications were not genuine and the visa should not have been granted".
Nigerians can travel to Australian on tourist visas but must supply a long list of documents and proof of means of support.
The student visa is considered easier to obtain and less likely to be questioned.
After the alleged corruption was uncovered the case was referred to the Integrity and professional Standards Branch of then Department of Immigration and Border Protection now Home Affairs, which then referred the findings to the law enforcement watchdog ACLEI as a "potential corruption issue".
A joint investigation was launched by ACLEI, The Department of Home Affairs, the Australian Federal Police and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade into the alleged corrupt conduct of Visa Processing Officers in the Australian High Commission Pretoria, South Africa.
The targets of the investigation were "locally engaged employees". It was suspected both of the officers granted a series of fraudulent Australian student visas to Nigerian nationals in return for money.
They were sacked in May 2017 but the details of the fraud scheme and its link to drug smuggling have never been released.
Nor has it been revealed whether charges were laid or any other staff were involved in the fraud.
Mysteriously, the documents also revealed a Case Officer in the Australian High Commission at the time identified was a "colleague and personal friend of………… "Someone whose name was deleted under Section 37 affecting law enforcement and protection of public safety.
A spokesman for the Department of Home Affairs said following internal disciplinary investigations, the two non-Australian citizens had their employment at the Australian High Commission in Pretoria terminated by the Head of Mission.
"Concurrently, the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI) led a joint agency investigation into the allegations.
"The Department takes all allegations of misconduct and corruption seriously. Robust action is taken against individuals where corrupt conduct is identified."