Zimbabwe Disowns Corruption-accused Belgian Passport Making Company
Zimbabwe has disowned the Belgian company that was previously reported to have been contracted to produce e-passports, national identity cards and birth certificates.
The U-turn came amid revelations that the company, Semlex, had a dodgy history and apparently got the contract without going to tender.
Semlex, as shown on its website, offers services to several African countries, among them Mozambique, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Niger, Uganda, DRC, Tanzania, Rwanda, Senegal, Somalia, Togo and Senegal,
The services include the supply of passports, voter cards, biometric driving licenses, visas and resident permits.
Home Affairs minister, Kazembe Kazembe, recently told Zimlive, that Semlex had been contracted to produce e-passports, birth certificates and national identity cards that would be used to create a national biometric database.
This would be on a “Build Own Operate Transfer” basis, with Semlex producing the documents at no cost to the government and recouping its expenses from the revenue generated.
However, Grazers News asked Kazembe how Semlex got the contract without going to tender as required by the law and whether the government was aware of the company’s alleged track record of corruption.
Minister Kazembe flatly denied any links with the Belgian company and repeated the denial in a follow-up interview. He said:
There is no contract with Semlex of Belgium. Government has no contract with the company.
Open source searches have revealed that, in January 2018, police in Belgium searched the headquarters of the company and the home of its chief executive officer, Albert Karaziwan, after linking the firm to money laundering and corruption.
In Comoros Islands, located in East Africa, 170 passports supplied by Semlex were cancelled in 2018 after it was discovered that they had been improperly issued to foreigners—mainly Indians—by the company.
A report produced in September 2020 by the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) after investigations, indicated that Semlex “used bribes, kickbacks and insider dealing to secure contracts around the world, inflating the cost of vital documents for ordinary citizens while lining the pockets of wealthy elites.”
Currently, Fidelity Printers, a government entity that has been struggling to clear the national backlog and has no capacity to generate e-passports, is producing ordinary travel documents.
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