June 26, 2018

Shocking trade in stolen UK passports (really??)

Readers in UK obviously don't read the blog, because the Daily Mail has just published the headline of ignorance:

Shocking trade in stolen UK passports: How gangs sell them for £2,500 – so criminals and terrorists can sneak in to the country

PUBLISHED: 22:43 BST, 24 June 2018 | UPDATED: 07:34 BST, 25 June 2018

  • Security experts say owning genuine British passport like ‘winning lottery’
  • MPs called for action to address Britain’s ‘shocking vulnerability’ to illegals
  • Daily Mail bought UK passport for £2,500 from people smuggler in Turkey

    Shocking? This trade has been going on since forever, but because it is in the interests of practically everyone to believe that ID documents are perfect, it doesn't make it past the editor's desk. Check the Identity Cost tag.

    The only news is that the price might have risen - £2500 is a lot more than the £1000 we are used to.

    And in case anyone forgets, here's the rest of the Mail's shocking discovery of reality.

    A disturbing trade in stolen British passports is exposed today by the Daily Mail.

    Swiped by criminal gangs in Western Europe, they are flown to Istanbul or Athens for sale by people smugglers.

    Security experts said owning a genuine British passport was like ‘winning the lottery’ for jihadis and criminals – allowing them to slip across borders undetected.

    In response to the Mail’s findings, MPs called for action to address Britain’s ‘shocking vulnerability’ to potentially dangerous illegals.

    Dozens of false documents seized by an organised crime unit in Greece, including hundreds of ID cards and scores of passports

    Our investigation reveals that British citizens are selling their passports to be bought by migrants of similar appearance.

    And fake EU identity cards that can be used to enter the UK are also being made to order within three days in the Balkans.

    The Mail bought a UK passport for £2,500 from Abu Ahmad, a people-smuggling kingpin in Turkey. It had been stolen from a Milton Keynes man working in Brussels.

    It was one of five passports that Ahmad, who is known as ‘The Doctor’, offered to the Mail.

    The others included one stolen from an Oxford graduate visiting Paris and another taken from a 28-year-old Manchester woman who was on holiday in Spain.

    Ahmad boasted that seven in ten of his clients succeed in duping immigration staff and making it to the UK.

    He is on bail while he appeals against an eight-year sentence for spiriting thousands of migrants into Europe, including suspected jihadis. At its peak, his ‘business’ was bringing in £110,000 a month.

    Europol, an EU police agency, warned yesterday that people smugglers operating in Turkey and Greece were ‘frequent’ offenders in the trade in black market documents, which is an ‘important enabler’ of organised crime.

    Ahmad said all the passports he sold were genuine – otherwise they would be no use at border control.

    They are either stolen or sold by their owners, who agree not to report them as missing for a few months, by which time they have been used by Ahmad’s customers.

    He said: ‘Most British passports are stolen. Except if the passport was in the name of someone Arabic or Pakistani or something, that could have been sold.’

    Ahmad said he had no qualms about profiting from stolen passports and, despite boasting he has smuggled thousands of people into Britain, insisted he was certain none of them were jihadis or criminals.

    Abu Ahmad, who is known as ‘The Doctor’, helps smuggle people across the world by selling them stolen passports

    But another Syrian immigrant in Turkey told the Mail at least two people Ahmad helped get into Europe were known Islamists operating in Damascus.

    The German authorities were alerted about them after their arrival, he said.

    Interpol, an international police agency, has a stolen and lost travel documents database, known as SLTD, which it says was searched more than 1.2billion times in the first nine months of 2016, providing 115,000 ‘hits’.

    But on its website, it admits: ‘Interpol is not automatically notified of all passport thefts occurring worldwide, and the SLTD database is not connected to national lists of stolen or lost passports.

    ‘Despite the potential availability of the SLTD database, not all countries systematically search the database to determine whether an individual is using a fraudulent passport.’

    For £7,000 Ahmad books his client a hotel room, gets them food and hands over a stolen passport. This is the full-service package, with the cheapest being just the passport for £2,500

    In 2014, the head of the agency said just four in ten passports used for international flights were checked against the database.

    Labour MP John Woodcock, a member of the Commons home affairs committee, said: ‘At a time when several hundred potentially highly dangerous jihadis have fled when Islamic State has been deposed it’s highly alarming to learn that this way of entering the UK illegally seems to be so readily available.’

    Ed Davey, the Lib Dem home affairs spokesman, said: ‘Criminals who capitalise on the vulnerability of tourists and then profit off refugees and immigrants in desperate need of help must not be allowed to operate so freely.’

    David Lowe, a former Special Branch counter-terrorism officer now based at Leeds Beckett University, said: ‘For terrorists and criminals getting a new passport is like winning the lottery.

    ‘It’s a significant concern with fighters coming from Islamic State or returning British fighters. Once you get in with somebody else’s passport you are very difficult to trace.’

    One of the stolen passports used to help get people through passport control and across borders. The Daily Mail bought one from Ahmad in Istanbul for £2,500

    Immigration minister Caroline Nokes said: ‘One hundred per cent of passports are inspected at the border.

    ‘Border Force officers are rigorously trained to prevent the holders of fraudulent documents from entering the country and between 2010 and March 2018, we denied entry to over 144,000 people.

    ‘Immigration Enforcement constantly monitors and identifies emerging threats in relation to the production and supply of false travel documents, including the use of the internet to facilitate the trade in passports and identity cards.

    ‘We have a range of interventions to target the criminals involved, including criminal prosecution of crime groups in the UK and overseas.’

    Posted by iang at June 26, 2018 06:53 AM
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