CRIMINALS, terror suspects and illegal immigrants are being pulled from flights to Australia with organised crime groups running sophisticated fake passport operations, according to an intelligence report on “identified threats” to our borders
The number of suspects detected this year after landing at Australian airports on bogus documents was just 14, with nine of those being detained by Australian Federal Police at Kingsford Smith Airport in Sydney, three from Melbourne’s Tullamarine and two from Perth.
But figures obtained by News Corp Australia shows Australian Border Force officers intercepted ten times that many offshore over the past four years as suspects attempted to board flights to Australian destinations.
The documents have been deemed “highly sophisticated”, more so than their holders; one Albanian suspect attempted to fly to Sydney on an Italian passport but when questioned at Dubai airport check-in counter by ABF officers couldn’t speak Italian.
The countries topping the jump-point list for disguised passengers to Australia are Malaysia, Denpasar and Jakarta in Indonesia, China, Singapore and the Middle East including Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi.
Of the almost 50 fake passport-related interdictions made this year alone, 17 were from the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.
That overall average for Malaysian interdictions by Australian authorities working out of Kuala Lumpur is consistent with averages over the previous four years.
Intelligence has pointed to Malaysia-based criminals behind the attempts to help mostly Middle East, particularly Afghan, Chinese and North African suspects fly into Australia.
In August, authorities arrested a terrorist-linked Pakistani man in Malaysia who was carrying more than 60 foreign passports and a machine to make more to move suspects about the region.
Of ABF passport seizures offshore, biodata pages had been sophisticatedly dismantled, altered and reassembled while others were stolen and listed on Interpol’s lost and stolen passports database.
“There are known crime groups, they will be paid or whatever, to help these nationals come to Australia and there will be a variety of reasons why they will want to disguise their identity whether it’s because they are on a (terror) watch list through to refugees wanting to migrate,” a security officer said.
“It’s not just photos stuck in the book but highly sophisticated, professional alterations … by criminal syndicates.
“It’s about good management to support the integrity and security of Australia’s borders and so that’s why we have strong liaisons with host governments who assist in detecting movement and activities of people that may pose a national security concern.”
Officers said they also worked well with key airlines notably Qantas and Emirates overseas to assist in stopping criminals before they board aircraft.
ABF interdicted a record 1043 non-genuine travellers in the past four years of which 336 were specifically carrying fake passports.