Saturday, 26 May 2007

FAKE PASSPORT, TAKE EURO PICK!

So easy.. we show how simply terrorists or criminals can buy themselves new identity in UK

PEOPLE INVESTIGATION
By Daniel Jones, Muhamed Veliu And Nada Farhoud



TERRORISTS and gangmasters can buy dodgy passports in Britain for as little as £250, a shock People investigation reveals today.
Foreign crooks boast they can get fake IDs for almost any EU country - including the UK, France and Germany.
We were offered fake, sold or stolen passports for almost all of the 27 EU countries during our probe.
The phoney papers are so good they would fool most officials, according to experts.
And cops fear the growing trade - especially in London - means crime rings controlled by illegal immigrants are now "running out of control".
A massive crackdown by the Metropolitan Police shut down dozens of passport "factories" in the capital in March alone.
But our alarming investigation into dodgy IDs shows this was only the tip of the iceberg.
Scores of villains - mostly from eastern Europe and Africa - still brag they can provide passports for most of the EU's 27 states to help criminals beat border controls or sting banks in credit frauds.
They use press adverts, the internet and even cards stuck up in shop windows to peddle their despicable trade.
Posing as crooks, we replied to an ad in a Russian-language newspaper in London offering "help with documents".
A man calling himself Edgar Belbin claimed he could get us a passport from Austria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Italy, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Spain - and even Britain.
We met the 27-year-old Russian in a busy supermarket car park in Stratford, east London.
Belbin arrived with a minder in a sporty grey Audi motor.
And he insisted we walk round the block as we talked - a common ruse used by crooks in a bid to thwart surveillance.
But his suspicions melted away when we told him we needed his help to mastermind a bank fraud. Belbin immediately relaxed and started smiling.
He boasted: "I can do most EU countries.
"What do you want? We have them made up specially."
Belbin told us an East European passport would cost £600 but a French one - much harder to get - would be £1,500.
We handed over a £100 deposit and asked for one from Latvia. Three weeks later, Belbin rang to arrange delivery.
He nervously changed the time and venue several times.
But finally he agreed to a cloak-and-dagger handover on Friday at crowded Stratford Tube station.
After watching our investigator from across the road to make sure he was alone, Belbin came up to him with the passport in an envelope and demanded his payment in cash.
He counted our wad of £50 notes, smiled and disappeared after a brusque: "Thanks."
Later, we showed the passport - doctored with a photo of a People investigator - to identity fraud expert Tom Craig.
The former Scotland Yard detective ran a series of exhaustive tests on it - and pronounced it a convincing document.
He said: "Whoever has done this has done a pretty good job.
"The chances of you opening a bank account with this are pretty good and it would be fine for getting work." Mr Craig added: "It might not get through immigration but is perfect for fraud."
Meanwhile, we contacted a Polish dealer who advertised his wares in a shop window in west London.
Piotr Tomczynski, who calls himself Derek, also walked us round the block when we met him at Wood Green station, north London.
He claimed he could get us a passport from almost anywhere in eastern Europe including Hungary, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia.
But his were not forgeries - they had been sold to crooks by poverty stricken people desperate for cash.
He said all that needed to be changed was the photo.
Tomczynski offered us one for just £250 and assured us: "Don't worry, it's not stolen - there is no one looking for it." He walked with us to a cash machine to get the money.
Butwhen we tried to hand the cash to him and check the passport, he barked in his faltering English: "No! There are too many cameras here. Round the corner."
The cash and passport were exchanged minutes later at a nearby bus station.
A third dealer The People tracked down was a shady Romanian woman.
Catalina Postelnicu was offering passports from her home country as well as from Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Norway and Sweden.
We spotted an advert she had placed on a website and eventually made a deal for her to provide a Bulgarian passport for £300 after a string of emails.
Postelnicu told us the document we were getting had been stolen and added: "You have to use it quickly before the police computers are updated.
"But that is OK - it takes months."
Later, Postelnicu contacted us to say the passport was now available. She gave us the exact location for the rendezvous in a brief phone call just an hour before the meeting was due to take place.
And she warned us: "If you are not there I won't wait." She told us to sit at a specific table at a pub in Ealing, west London, late on Friday - with the £300 fee in cash.
Then without so much as a greeting, dark-haired Postelnicu - hiding her face with a cap and dark glasses - sidled over and snapped: "Where's my money?"
Our investigator asked her if she could also get hold any Scandinavian passports.
Postelnicu said: "Yes but you must email me about it. I don't like meetings."
She then took the £300, handed over the Bulgarian passport and was gone in a flash.
Large numbers of the forged IDs available on the streets of Britain are printed in passport "factories" - many of them in Lithuania and Nigeria. Others - like the ones we were offered - are genuine passports which have been sold by cash-strapped owners or stolen.
Some even come from corrupt officials who nick blank passports from government offices.
The racket is one of the UK's fastest-growing crimes. Terrorists need false IDs to foil police hunts.
In 2003, the first al-Qaeda members to be jailed in the UK - Algerians Baghdad Meziane and Brahim Benmerzouga - both had phoney passports.
Fakes are used to open bank accounts - allowing crooks to rip off millions in fraud.
They are also used by peopletraffickers who lure victims to the UKand force them to work as sex slaves or in sweatshops.
And dodgy papers can also be used to claim state benefits - costing taxpayers a fortune.
Cops estimate the scam costs British business £1.3BILLION a year. And the Met says London alone has up to 170 foreign-led gangs faking passports, selling drugs and smuggling people.
But as politicians celebrate the 50th anniversary of the dream of a united Europe, the irony is the EU's relaxed policy on border controls has made the trade in human misery so much easier for ruthless crooks.

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