February 15, 2010

The cost of playing red-footed football for European top-league clubs

An article in the Dutch paper NRC Handelsblad reveals that

A classified Dutch government report has revealed that criminals stole 341,956 passports, identity cards, visa stickers and drivers' licences from European government facilities since 2000.

OK! That would be 34k per year across Europe. It states that purchasers

are willing to pay increasingly high prices for travel documents and passports," the report states. Depending on the country and the type of document sought, prices are said to vary from 500 to 11,000 euros .

That's for documents based on stolen-as-blank European documents (which supports our rule of thumb: 1,000 euros for a good set). Later on the article gives one estimate of costs (to us) or profits (to crooks):

"The damages incurred can amount to at least a hundred times the prices paid for these documents." A couple of years ago, Dutch customs officials estimated that in the Netherlands alone, fraud committed using forged proof of identity cost three billion euros annually.

If one guesses say a tenth of the numbers for Netherlands alone (finger in air, divide European numbers above by 11), then each year, 3000 good identity documents are selling into the Netherlands and chasing 3 billion euros of fraud. That's 3 million bux per identity sale .

That's serious money. This is for the real item, and only the printing would give them away on inspection, which makes those numbers useful. Here's more information.

To combat the abuse of stolen documents, customs offices protecting the Schengen area's outer borders have the so called Schengen Information System (SIS) at their disposal. The SIS lists not only all persons and vehicles wanted by law enforcement in countries party to the Schengen treaty, but also contains data on all blank travel documents that were stolen or went missing from government facilities there. According to the Dutch police, the database contains 341,956 documents in all. However the SIS is not consulted with every entry into the EU.

So the headline 3.4m over Europe, the 2000s decade, would be a floor rather than ceiling. Another remarkable pointer in the article:

The report, entitled Report on Security norms for Diplomatic Posts, lists numerous European embassies and consulates that were robbed around the turn of the century by Eastern and Central European "crime syndicates", bagging large numbers of passports and visa stickers in the process.

The gangs "occasionally used extreme violence" to gain access to the "poorly secured" diplomatic posts, the report states. The gangster were privy to "know-how and techniques used by former intelligence agencies". Netherlands, Spain, Austria and Portugal ... Vienna, Geneva, Lausanne, Brussels and other locations. The crime spree was kept under wraps at the time, but the thefts were recently confirmed by the foreign ministry at NRC Handelsblad's request.

Which would point the finger at organised crime. Which means it is serious, it is working, it is making money, and it isn't going away. Add to that observation the above 3 million profit number, and now we something serious: That's a trend we can rely upon .

Who are likely customers? The report lists the usual grab-bag of scumbags & losers such as "criminals, human traffickers and illegal asylum seekers," terrorist(s):

Stolen Belgian passports were used by Abdessatar Dahmane and an accomplice in September 2001 to pose as journalists and gain access to Ahmed Shah Massoud, the leader of Afghanistan's Northern Alliance, and kill him in a suicide bombing.

And this odd one:

Brazilian football star Leonardo Santiago was caught red-handed in 2000 when his Portuguese passport proved to be a fake. The 17-year-old darling of Rotterdam's Feyenoord team had thus been able to circumvent the strict regulations that apply to all non EU-citizens playing for European football clubs.

The story is by no means unique in European football. In recent years, law enforcement officials in France, Italy and Spain have caught dozens of 'Leonardos', playing for clubs like Inter Milan, Lazio Roma, AS Monaco and Saint-Etienne.

Shouldn't that be "caught red-footed" ? Joking aside, what exactly is the harm here?

Teams and players alike benefited from the fraudulent documents. In France and Italy, regulations only allow clubs to field a limited number of non-EU players. In the Netherlands, the same foreign nationals can only be signed if they are paid at least 503,000 euros annually.

Exactly. One presumes there is no serious cost to society to fielding a footballer of the wrong colour in a game. Lumping mass entertainment in with serious crime is a misuse of police resources, and we'd rather they be chasing those real criminals mentioned earlier, and now here:

Police in Dubai have issued arrest warrants for 11 suspects they want
to question about the killing of a senior Hamas official in Dubai.
The suspects include six men travelling on false British passports.

Posted by iang at February 15, 2010 03:58 PM | TrackBack

I think the bigger danger with these documents is not what happens at the border coming into Europe but rather within Europe itself. It's easy enough to enter Europe with a real and valid passport and then switch identities to fake documents once there. The only real value at the border would be those who could not get into Europe any other way, and that's the rare bird like those footballers.

Posted by: Daniel at February 15, 2010 07:22 PM

A day after Dubai police announced the names of the suspects, a spokesman for Ireland's Department of Foreign Affairs said: "We are unable to identify any of those three individuals as being genuine Irish citizens. Ireland has issued no passports in those names."

The passport numbers had the wrong number of digits and did not contain letters as authentic passports do, he added.

"These purported passports are false. These are not genuine passports."

Posted by: Fake Passports used by real criminals at February 16, 2010 12:12 PM

The problem with all identity documents is that at some point they go back to human judgment and a root document (used just once).

In the UK the root document is your Birth Certificate.

If you have a Birth Certificate all you will find is it is a numberd recipt for your entry into the UK Register of Births. And it also contains a hand written copy of your record details (full name of you your parents and parents occupations etc).

If you like the certificate number is the "Primary Key" to your record in the UK birth DB ("hatches").

If you get married in the UK then you end up with a Marriage Certificate with a different number as a primary key to a record in a different UK marraige DB ("matches")

And when you die your relatives get a Death Certificate which points to yet another UK death DB ("dispatches").

The system behind these different Register's is quite badly flawed (although we are slowly sorting it out). But the simple fact is getting hold of copies of any one of these certificates is not that difficult and by carefull manipulation of the system you can get a nice new shiny (it you pay the pound to have it laminated) Birth Certificate.

The Birth Certificate then unlocks to you first UK passport, that unlocks to a drivers licence both of which get you a bank account etc etc.

So as pointed out in the book "Day of the Jackel" if you know of somebody who has died before 18 years etc you can get a Birth Certificate for them (a flaw that has supposadly been closed but various news articles sugest not).

Likewise if you know somebody from school who emigrated to another Country etc etc you can get a birth certificate for them and go get a passport etc etc.

But it gets better. If you are born in N.I. You are entitled to have a UK and an Irish passport and thus have two passports neither of which are required to be in the same name due to Deed Poll (where you legaly change your name).

At one point in time due to the behaviour of other countries (one of which was Israel) you could apply to get a second valid UK passport.

Now the thing is what happens when your passport is due to expire or has expired?

Well you get two photos (in the new "no fun" format) a form from the Post office and your old passport.

You can either send it all off in the post and cross your fingers. Or if you wish you can visit a passport office to submit the documents and get your nice new shinny passport.

So after your initial passport has been issued the only link down the passports is the old passport and human judgment that the face in one photo is the same as another ten or more years older...

Now if you happen to be Jewish and emigrate to Israel they used to encorage you to hand over a life history and your passport to get a nice new shinny citicenship document and passport.

Have you ever considered what happened to those tens of thousands of valid passports handed in?

What is the chance that you could find a sufficiently good match between a "UK Passport Photo" and a person working for the Government of Israel in Counter Terorism?

I would say very high (think Birthday Paradox).

All the person has to do is fly into the UK with the old passport fill out and notorise a deed poll form, get two photos and a passport form and in 48hours leave the UK with a brand new shinny and fully legitimate UK passport in a new name...

Now Germany used to have "land laws" that enabled you to claim German Citizenship if you could show you had German ancestry.

And as you may know from history lessons a large number of Jews left Germany in the 1930's and got UK and US and many other nations passports often in different names (it appears that deep poll is not registered in the same way as births etc thus opening up another hole).

So it is possible to turn up and get a German passport with very little documentry evidence...

So you could if you did it right have legitimate UK, Irish & German passports each in a different name whilst being a fully paid up citizen of Israel working on Counter Terrorism...

So the various EU passport systems have more holes than a (Non European) Swiss cheese right from the geographic heart of Europe...

So the question arrises why did some of these people have "fake passports" for people that had been on holiday to Israel?

Could it be that passports are so easy to fake that it is not worth the cost or bother to get "real passports" in different names?

Or did the people concerned know from experiance which fake passports would work and thus have "burn ID's" to spare for just such emergancy operations?

I'm assuming it was an emergancy simply because there had been other attempts on the mans life before and he always traveled with body guards, but for some reason (as yet unexplained) his body guards could not get on the flight or subsiquent flights to Dubi.

Which gives rise to a whole host of other questions not least of which is, what was so important in Dubi that he would risk his life getting and staying there?

Oh and just to make it more fun if the parents plan a little ahead it is possible to get a new born baby birth certificates in atleast three countries just by haveing an unattended home birth...

Posted by: Clive Robinson at February 22, 2010 06:58 AM

It looks like the Brits have come out of the closet and blamed the Israeli intel agencies:

"GIVEN that this was a very sophisticated operation in which high-quality forgeries were made, the Government judges it highly likely that the forgeries were made by a state intelligence service.” So said David Miliband, Britain’s foreign secretary, on Tuesday March 23rd, explaining to Parliament why he had decided to eject an Israeli diplomat—thought to be a member of Mossad, the Israeli external intelligence service—from the country.

Posted by: the Economist on those Dubai passports at March 25, 2010 07:29 PM

Can anyone recommend a good passport dealer?

Posted by: al at June 20, 2011 12:08 PM
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