Fake travel visas were realistic enough for unwitting use, court rules

Three foreign nationals have been cleared of using forged German travel visas because the fake documents were of such high quality there was doubt as to whether they knew the documents were fake

Three foreign nationals have been cleared of knowingly using forged German travel visas because the fake documents were of such high quality that there was reasonable doubt as to whether they knew the documents were fake.

Momodu Kamara 26, Marrah Sallay 25 from Sierra Leone and Weini Goitom Fitwi 30 from Eritrea were accused of being in possession of falsified visas and knowingly making use of them as well as falsifying registration documents under the Immigration Act.

The trio arrived in Malta in December 2018 on a flight from Moscow on their way to Germany. Sallay and Kamara asked for asylum, but their German visas were found to have been forged.  Fitwi was arrested later that day when she went to Border Control on Departure desk, and the officer on duty suspected her visa to have been falsified. In all three cases, the visas belonged to persons from Asia.

The forgeries were examined by an expert and found to be very high-quality fakes, all made by the same printing press, the court was told.

Fitwi released a statement saying that as far as she knew, her visa was valid. Kamara also said he was not sure if the visa was fake because it was his first time abroad.

He released a statement saying that he was married to Marrah and that she had been threatened by the family of her deceased former husband.

Kamara explained to the police that in Sierra Leone, a certain Doris had taken care of their visas and had not charged them for it. They had gone with her to Moscow, where Sallay was offered to work as a prostitute but had refused. They ended up working as cleaners instead. In July, Kamara said he had spotted the brother of his wife’s deceased partner in Moscow and got very scared.

Magistrate Audrey Demicoli, presiding the Court of Magistrates as a court of criminal judicature, said it was clear that the accused had falsified visas in their possession, but it had not been proven that they knew the visas were false and had knowingly made use of them.

For the finding of guilt, there were two elements necessary, explained the court. First, the material element which consisted in the simple possession and use of the false visa and secondly the formal element, which meant that this must have been done after a conscious decision to break the law.

In their statements, Famara and Fitwi had said that they didn’t know if their visas were fake or not. With regards Kamara and Sallay, their passports had, for a time, been in the hands of the person known as “Doris” whom they had relied on for help. The forgeries were so good that it was plausible that Kamara and Sallay didn’t realize their visa was fake, observed the court.

The prosecution’s argument that the fact that two of the accused had requested asylum in Malta proved that they knew their visas were false did not convince the court, which cleared the three accused of all wrongdoing and ordered their release.

Lawyer Roberto Montalto was defence counsel.

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