Govt in settlement talks over defective passport

01 November 2019 | Justice

A father is in settlement negotiations with home affairs officials after suing the ministry for N$276 000 after a terrifying ordeal in which his 18-year-old son was jailed in Thailand for being in possession of a fake passport.

Michael Geiseb, now 19, and his father Petrus Geiseb, a regional manager of Pick n Pay Namibia, place the blame squarely on home affairs for issuing a defective passport in 2016, in which a ghost image needed to verify the passport as genuine was botched.

They state in court papers that the entire ordeal could have been prevented if the passport had been issued without the faulty security marker.

Papers filed by the ministry of home affairs accepts partial liability to a “certain extent” for the defective document, but indicated they would only pay a small portion of the amount the Geisebs are suing for.

The incident happened in August 2018, when 18-year-old Michael Geiseb arrived at the Bangkok airport after spending a few months in the country to pursue his studies.

Immigration officials discovered the incorrect ghost image “and arrested and detained him on suspicion of being in possession of a falsified travel document”.

He was jailed on the spot.

With his son behind bars in a foreign country, Geiseb senior immediately bought a ticket and flew to Thailand to help his son and secure his release.

He had to hire a local lawyer and paid N$36 000 for bail.

The Geisebs are asking the court to order home affairs to repay all expenses incurred during this distressing period of their lives.

This includes a refund of the N$135 200 fine for being in possession of an invalid passport, and a N$10 000 fine for overstaying in Thailand.

The Namibian authorities have offered to pay back only N$10 000 of the money spent on fines.

Moreover, the Geisebs are asking for a refund on airline tickets that cost more than N$43 000 during that period.

Lastly, they are asking the court to award them N$50 000 in damages suffered during the ordeal, including for Geiseb junior's arrest and detainment.

The ministry filed a notice of intention to defend the matter in August.

In its plea, the ministry said it was willing to admit liability “to a certain extent” to the tune of N$45 084 of the more than N$276 000 being asked.

This week the parties informed Judge Nate Ndauendapo that they were negotiating a possible settlement.

Ndauendapo agreed to their request to postpone the matter to 5 December for a status hearing.

Lawyer Norman Tjombe is representing the Geisebs while government lawyer Lindrowski Tibinyane is working on behalf of the defendants.

JANA-MARI SMITH

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