Improper pilgrimage profits: selling hajj visas

October 16, 2011

In a scandal that reaches into the Saudi embassy in South Africa, an undisclosed number of South African hajj operators are under investigation by the South African Haj & Umrah Council (SAHUC) for selling visas to people outside of South Africa’s hajj quota who have not been properly accredited to participate in the hajj.

During an Oct. 5 broadcast, SAHUC secretary general Shaheen Essop told Radio Islam that the matter “goes beyond a hajj scandal; it’s actually a disgrace.”  Take a listen to this three-minute exchange:

Apparently, the hajj operators were bringing paperwork on behalf of non-accredited hujjaj (pilgrims) to the Saudi embassy in South Africa for visas to be issued.  When pressed by the Radio Islam interviewer on whether Saudi embassy employees were involved in the improper visa issuance (which they most certainly were), Essop carefully avoided implicating the Saudis, saying that SAHUC’s investigation will not penetrate the Saudi embassy due to an “administrative issue related to that.”  However, Essop did disclose later in the interview that the Saudi embassy is conducting an internal investigation.

Selling hajj visas for trade is considered impermissible, although the hajj is well-known to produce enormous annual business for tourism and hospitality sectors both in and outside Saudi Arabia.  Hajj swindles have already been uncovered this year in Tajikstan and Lebanon.

Although the hajj will not take place until early November this year, many South African Muslims, including ones who improperly purchased their visas, have already departed for Saudi Arabia.


  1. I think its high time that something be done abt these so called ”gajj agents” that charge exhorbitant prices,

  2. How is a corrupt practice by Saudi Arabia at all relevant? It looks like you agree with al-Qaeda regarding the corruption of the Saudi government. Do you also support terrorism?

    • Despite its oil riches, the Islamic world lags behind the West in economic development. Corruption, poverty, inequality characterize much of the Middle East–much of which stems from Islamic law & practices.

      What I support is honest government, free markets, and religion grounded in peace & good will rather than violence against “infidels”.

  3. Good day, I would like to know who can I inform about drug smuggeling from South Africa to Saudi Arabia? I do have the cellphone number of the 2 woman who planned the smuggeling. I know that sms’s can be traced I will gladly give you the numbers, the woman who lives in Saaudi Arbia was here in last year to collect more drugs for personal use that side.

    • Hi, Susan. Thank you for your information. Perhaps you should start with local law enforcement or the South African National Intelligence Agency.

      But can you tell us anything more about the women involved or their possible motives? When did the smuggling take place? Do they have the drugs shipped or do they travel/fly to Saudi Arabia with the drugs?

  4. Hi, it started almost 2 yrs ago, December 2010, they collect it here and fly with it to Saudi, I do not know what is the purpose of it, I can provide you with her I.D number it is 9306110017086 I am sure you can pick up her visa via her I.D number, the cellphone number that was used for the requests for the drugs was 0799980830. I am sure if you pull all text messages for the time period of November 2010 and December 2010 you will find the evidance. I can provide you with their address, where the person who lives in South Africa. Will you be able to act against them? As far as I know the one who lives in Saudi was in South Africa twice last year, and she took drugs back to Saudi.

    • Thanks, Susan. I won’t be able to trace those numbers or pursue legal action personally, but I’m sure it would be helpful if you’ll contact the authorities with your information.

      Are these women originally from Saudi Arabia? Or are they native South Africans?

      I trust South African officials would investigate accordingly. Please keep us posted on any updates or progress into this matter. Drug smuggling to fund terror has been a common tactic used by both Hezbollah and Al Qaeda in Latin America through West and North Africa, but hearing about a case from South Africa to directly to Saudi Arabia is a new dimension worth investigation.

      • Their origin is South Africa, born and raised here, could you provide me with an website address or an email address where I can get hold of someone who can help me? Well it is a mother and a daughter, the daughter lives in South Africa, the Mother got her premission to stay in Saudi now. Please help me by provoiding with contact details to contact the right people. Please.

  5. Thanks again, Susan. Please report to South African intelligence:


    PO Box 1037
    Tel: +2712 3670700
    Fax: +2712 3670749

    Cape Town
    PO Box 51278
    Tel: +2721 4011800
    Fax: +2721 4614644

    Or email them at NOC@ssa.gov.za

    South Africa also has a “Crime Stop” hotline at 08600 10111. Good luck & keep us posted!

    • Thank you so much for your help, there is someone from the Royal Embassy who is going to come over to my house for the information. Thank you again.

      • Glad to hear it, Susan, and you’re welcome! Assuming that they don’t make you sign a non-disclosure agreement, I hope you’ll let us know what the authorities said, and whether they intend to proceed with an investigation.

        Do you have any hunch on why the women have been smuggling the drugs back to Saudi Arabia? Just for personal profit or do you suspect a broader purpose?

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