Yasiin Bey, Formerly Mos Def, Arrested In South Africa For Fake Passport

The hip hop artist formerly known as rapper Mos Def has 14 days to leave South Africa, courtesy of a fake passport and effectively overstaying his welcome. He had been in the country since 2013, but according to Billboard, Mos Def had “overstayed his visitor’s permit by 2014.”

Although he is now known as Yasiin Bey, Mos Def has been thought of as one of the most insightful and introspective hip hop artists today, according to IMdB. The musician and actor has an Obie Award (for off-Broadway theatre) to his credit, in addition to an NAACP Image Award.

(Photo by Ben A. Pruchnie/Getty Images)

Allegedly, Mos Def tried to leave the country with a “world passport,” a document the African republic does not recognize, according to New York Daily News. Department of Home Affairs Spokesman Mayihlome Tshwete tweeted about Mos Def’s situation today.

“(Mos Def) has been living in SA with his family without the necessary permits, he was detained upon departure for using illegal travel docs,” Tshwete said.

Mos Def, born Dante Smith, has been living in South Africa with his family since 2013. The authorities said that should he wish to pursue permanent residency in South Africa, he was able to do that. He only needs to pursue permanent residency status through official channels.

The rapper has been living in Cape Town, reportedly, until he attempted to leave the country using a “world passport.” According to World Government of World Citizens,“the World Passport is a 30-page Machine Readable Travel Document (MRTD*) with alphanumeric code line, scanned-in passport photo and ‘ghost’ security paper with embedded logo, the data page laminated, in 7 languages: English, French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Chinese and Esperanto.”

World Government of World Citizens also cites Article 13 (2), of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.” One would think that any agency might recognize such a document with such “legitimacy” behind it, but sadly, there is no world passport – only ones for individual countries.

However, a 2007 article from Times of India reports that the “world passport” is a fake. Like Mos Def apparently did, a resident of India named Mohd Lal Amer purchased a “world passport” from the site World Government of World Citizens, which also cites some 170 countries that have accepted the passport on a case by case basis. It was not until Amer tried to go through immigration that it was realized he was carrying travel documents that were ultimately fake.

Mos Def currently has 14 days to leave the country. He could be barred from South Africa altogether for five years due to the court order currently in place for him to leave.

According to AP, Mos Def appeared in court with family members that did not have permits either. While he could ask for leniency from the courts, it is not yet known whether or not the rapper and actor will do so.

The United States Department of State admitted that it was aware that there was an American citizen being detained, but did not disclose a name. However, the Department of State representative contacted about the case said that the department would do all it could to help an American being detained.

“In cases where U.S. citizens are detained overseas, the Department works to provide all appropriate consular assistance,” the representative said via an email.

(Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images for VEVO)

Mos Def admitted in a 2014 interview that he was no longer comfortable or truly able to be creative the way he wanted to be in America, which was why he left.

“Earth is a very big and open place,” Mos Def, now known as Yasiin Bey, said in an interview with Beats by Dr. Dre. “That doesn’t mean I don’t value my family or my audience here in America. It’s just that I needed to take some time to put myself in environments where I felt good.”

[Feature Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images for VEVO]