Forgers behind one of Britain's biggest-ever fake ID scams sold thousands of counterfeit passports and driving licences for as little as £50

A pair of fraudsters orchestrated one of Britain's biggest-ever fake ID scams by selling thousands of counterfeit documents on the black market for as little as £50

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Arsene Meci, 25, from East Finchley (left) and Medi Krasniqi, 47, from Finsbury Park, orchestrated one of Britain's biggest-ever fake ID scams by selling thousands of counterfeit documents on the black market.

The duo, both from London, ran such an elaborate scheme that they became the 'go-to' forgers for criminal and illegal immigrants seeking new identities in the north of the capital.

Arsene Meci, 26, originally from Albania, manufactured the made-to-order documents - including passports, driving licences and national identity cards - from his home in East Finchley

He then passed them on to 47-year-old Medi Krasniqi, from Finsbury Park, who sold them to criminals for between £50 and £500, depending on what was required.

Once the cards were made, the pair would carry out handovers in shops and cafés in the Turnpike Lane area of north London. 

Krasniqi was also in charge of locating the clients, gathering photos and obtaining personal details which he would then pass on to Meci. 

But the pair - who specialised in making the false documents for use in the construction industry - were arrested in October as part of a three-year investigation by the National Crime Agency.

The probe, which looked into a series of Albanian-led cells dealing in false documentation, has so far led to 15 convictions and a collective jail sentence of 56 years.

Carl Eade, senior investigating officer from the NCA, said: 'Krasniqi and Meci really were the "go-to" men for anyone who wanted any form of false ID anywhere in north London. 

  The pair were arrested as part of a three-year investigation by the National Crime Agency into a series of Albanian-led cells dealing in false documentation

The pair were arrested as part of a three-year investigation by the National Crime Agency into a series of Albanian-led cells dealing in false documentation

'Their clients included criminals and people in the UK illegally.

'The thousands of passports, identity cards and other documents they were creating and selling were then used to help people obtain work or services they weren't entitled to.'

He added: 'Worryingly there is a safety element here too - one of the forms of ID they specialised in was certification to work in the construction industry.

'We have no way of knowing whether their clients were actually qualified to do the jobs they were then able to apply for.'

When Krasniqi was arrested, police found 70 counterfeit cards in his possession. A search of a property linked to Krasniqi led to around £12,000 being found stuffed behind an oven.

  A search of a property linked to Krasniqi led to the seizure of around £12,000, found stuffed behind an oven (pictured) 

A search of a property linked to Krasniqi led to the seizure of around £12,000, found stuffed behind an oven (pictured) 

  Police raiding Meci's flat in East Finchley - where most of the fake documents were made  - discovered a forgery factory of computers, laminators and professional printing equipment

Police raiding Meci's flat in East Finchley - where most of the fake documents were made  - discovered a forgery factory of computers, laminators and professional printing equipment

Police raiding Meci's flat discovered a forgery factory of computers, laminators and professional printing equipment.  There were also a number of photos, blank cards and fake passports ready to be made up.

Examination of the computers revealed more than 8,000 images and templates for driving licences, identity card, passport and cards. Each entitled the bearer to work in the construction and security industries.

According to the NCA, the wider investigation led to the seizure of more than 300 fake passports and 200 counterfeit national identity cards.  Both defendants pleaded guilty to conspiring to produce false identity documents, possession of false ID and money laundering charges at Chelmsford Crown Court on December 15.

They are due to be sentenced on January 12.

  Officers also found a number of photos, blank cards and fake passports ready to be made up (pictured)

Officers also found a number of photos, blank cards and fake passports ready to be made up (pictured)

Australia warns Israel over faux passports in Dubai assassination of Hamas chief

The Land Down Under is none too happy to have itself added to the slew of nations caught up in the passport fiasco surrounding the targeted killing of a top Hamas chief by an elaborate hit squad.

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A day after it was announced by Dubai police that more false passports were found to have been used by another 15 assassins, Australia has issued a statement condemning Israel, whom authorities have blamed for the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.

"I made it crystal clear to the [Israeli] ambassador that if the results of that investigation cause us to come to the conclusion that the abuse of Australian passports was in any way sponsored or condoned by Israeli officials," said Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, according to CNN, "then Australia would not regard that as the act of a friend."

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Since the January 20 murder of Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel, 26 suspects have been named by authorities. Photos have been released of the suspects, taken from passports that were falsely obtained and most are believed to have utilized stolen identities.

Mabhouh, who was reportedly in the United Arab Emirate to help smuggle weapons into Gaza, was found dead at the Al Bustan Rotana hotel.

177 Indonesians bound for Haj detained in Manila with fake passports

Jakarta : A group of 177 Indonesians were detained in the Philippines on Saturday after attempting to board a flight to Saudi Arabia for the annual Haj pilgrimage using fake Philippine passports.

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The Indonesians were reportedly about to board an early morning flight on Friday to Medina when they were apprehended by immigration personnel at Manila International Airport, who discovered that the group were unable to speak any Philippine language or dialect, EFE news reported.

An official at the Bureau of Immigration said that investigations into the identities of the Indonesians and the source of their fake passports was underway.The official added that the detainees were expected to be deported in the coming days.

According to local media reports, five Filipinos who were supposed to accompany the group on the trip were also arrested.

Initial investigations suggest the detainees were given Philippine passports to enable them to join this year's Haj pilgrimage, expected to run from September 9 to 14, using the quota reserved for Filipino pilgrims by the Saudi government.

503 fake passports seized at Dubai airport

Drive by Expertise Centre Identity and Fraud Documents over six months' period

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A total of 503 fake passports were seized during the last six months by the Expertise Centre Identity and Fraud Documents, ECIFD, system at Dubai International Airport, according to a top official.

During an inspection visit yesterday to the ECIFD, Major General Mohammed Al Marri, Director-General of the General Directorate for Residency and Foreigners Affairs in Dubai, GDRFA-Dubai, said that out of these passports 332 were forged, two distorted and 169 were identity theft.

According to Aqueel Al Najaar, Director of ECIFD, said that visitors trying to enter the country using fake identity documents are being easily exposed at the airport, due to the high-tech passport-reading and biometrics technology system designed to identify fraud.

He added that the centre, which was established in 2010, helps verify the identities of millions of travellers passing through Dubai airport each year.

He explained that the training centre of ECIFD develops and maintains a high level of expertise in relation to document checks on national and international investigation, and training on body language is also very important for passport control officers.

He added that all the training programmes at the centre are conducted by Emirati trainers, and a total of 316 trainee have completed their courses since the beginning of the year.

Australian drug fugitive arrested with fake passport in Phuket bar

PHUKET: Police arrested a 58-year-old Australian man in a bar on Patong’s party street Bangla Rd last night (Sept 13) after the man had spent three years quietly living in Phuket avoiding a warrant for his arrest in Australia on drug charges.

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Phuket Tourist Police and Phuket Crime Suppression officers, working with the Australian Federal Police (AFP), moved in and arrested Robert Gordon Pollybank Gee at Bar Funk, opposite the Tiger Pub bar complex on Bangla Rd, at 11pm.

Gee was wanted on an arrest warrant issued in Australia on July 4, 2012, for drug-possession charges.To make matters worse for the Australian drug fugitive, Gee was also found in possession of a fake passport.

“We found him at the bar. He was surprised to see us there,” said Police Major Nareuwat Phutwiro, an investigator with the Phuket Tourist Police.The fake passport Gee was carrying identified him as Canadian national “Roy Greyeyes”, Maj Nareuwat explained.

“He admitted that the passport was fake, but he did not tell us where he bought it from,” he said. Gee entered Thailand without passing through an immigration checkpoint sometime in 2011, Maj Nareuwat told The Phuket News.

“He has been in Phuket since 2013, and he bought the fake passport to use in order to remain here – until he was arrested last night,” he added.

“Gee was taken to Patong Police Station for further questioning,” Maj Nareuwat said.

Federal grand jury indicts Dallas attorney and his assistant for running marriage fraud scheme

Federal grand jury indicts Dallas attorney and his assistant for running marriage fraud scheme

 Bilal Khaleeq (Facebook)

Bilal Khaleeq (Facebook)

DALLAS — A federal grand jury in Dallas returned a one-count indictment last week charging a Dallas attorney and his assistant with conspiracy to commit marriage fraud.

This indictment was announced by U.S. Attorney John Parker of the Northern District of Texas. U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is investigating this case.

Specifically, the indictment charges Bilal Ahmed Khaleeq, 47, and Amna Cheema, 37, with one count each of conspiracy to commit marriage fraud. If convicted, the count charged in the indictment carries a maximum statutory penalty of five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.

Khaleeq and Cheema made their initial appearances in federal court Tuesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Horan. Both were released on bond.

“Immigration attorneys risk severe consequences when they choose to illegally profit by breaking U.S. immigration laws rather than building a profession on following those laws,” said Katrina W. Berger, special agent in charge of HSI Dallas. “HSI leads a Dallas-area Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force, and partners daily with many local law enforcement agencies to enforce immigration laws. HSI and our law enforcement partners will not tolerate immigration fraud — especially by immigration attorneys.”

According to the indictment, in May 2015, Khaleeq intentionally solicited Person A, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from India, to marry Cheema, a Pakistani national, for the purpose of obtaining U.S. permanent residence for Cheema. In exchange for entering into a fraudulent marriage and proceeding through the permanent residence process, Person A received a payment of $745, with promises of additional monies upon approval of the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status application (Form I-485). Cheema and Person A were married in Dallas County on June 15, 2015. Khaleeq arranged the marriage, advised Cheema regarding the filing of the Petition for Alien Relative (Form I-130), and represented the parties at the interview with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

After Cheema and Person A had been married, Khaleeq advised the parties on preparing the I-130 petition and supporting documents needed to make the marriage appear legitimate. Khaleeq’s advice included but was not limited to, joint bank accounts, tax returns, bills concerning their joint residence, and other fraudulent evidence, including photos. On July 10, 2015, the parties filed Forms I-130 and I-485 with USCIS.

The indictment further alleges that from Jan. 26, 2016 through March 7, 2017, Khaleeq, Cheema and Person A had several discussions regarding the immigration process and the documentary evidence needed to represent Cheema and Person A as a bona fide married couple for the purposes of obtaining the immigration benefit. In addition, Khaleeq coached Person A how to address the questions that would be posed during the USCIS interview process. Among other advisals, Khaleeq specifically instructed Person A to tell the USCIS adjudications officer that he cohabitated with Cheema even though that was a false statement. Khaleeq also advised Person A to leave some articles of clothing in Cheema’s residence to make it appear that he was residing there. Additionally, the parties discussed filing joint tax returns to provide additional evidence and discussed how long Person A and Cheema should remain married in order for her to obtain her U.S. permanent residence.

An indictment is an accusation by a federal grand jury, and a defendant is entitled to the presumption of innocence unless proven guilty.

Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Lynn Javier, Northern District of Texas, is in charge of this prosecution.

Document and Benefit Fraud Task Forces

Document and benefit fraud poses a severe threat to national security and public safety because it creates a vulnerability that may enable terrorists, criminals and illegal aliens to gain entry to and remain in the United States. Document fraud, also known as identity fraud, is the manufacture, sale or use of counterfeit identity documents such as fake driver's licenses, birth certificates, Social Security cards or passports for immigration fraud or other criminal activity. Benefit fraud refers to the misrepresentation or omission of facts on an application to obtain an immigration benefit one is not entitled to, such as U.S. citizenship, political asylum or a valid visa.

To combat this type of fraud, HSI has partnered with federal, state, and local counterparts to create the Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force, a series of multi-agency teams developed to target criminal organizations and beneficiaries behind these fraudulent schemes.

These task forces maximize resources, eliminate the duplication of efforts and produce a strong law enforcement presence. They combine HSI's unique criminal and administrative authorities with a variety of tools and authorities from other law enforcement agencies to achieve focused, high-impact criminal prosecutions and financial seizures.

This is how the UAE detects fake passports

The GDRFA in Dubai has detected 718 fake passports, 23 altered passports and 417 impersonation cases from January 2016 to 2017.

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As the UAE is expecting an influx of visitors in the run up to Expo 2020, immigration officials are tightening their grip on forged and fake passports and travel documents.

The main Document Examination Center at the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigner Affairs (GDRFA) in Dubai is established for travel document forgery detection to keep control of all ports in the emirate. Established five years ago, it has helped detect 718 fake passports, 23 altered passports and 417 impersonation cases from January 2016 to 2017.

Aqil Ahmed Alnajjar, Director of the Document Examination Center, said modern technologies are constantly introduced to adapt to new and innovative methods of forgery.  He noted that Dubai airports currently see about 140,000 passengers coming in and out of the emirate daily, and the number is set to increase the closer the date gets to 2020. "We will see millions of visitors crossing our ports and have to tighten our security. The centre is set to be part of the state security system," said Alnajjar.

He added that there are 19 security features available in the majority of passports worldwide, which determine whether documents are genuine. Among the basic physical evidence include the watermark or coloured fibres on passport pages.

To detect forged passports, about 1,700 trained first-line officers are deployed across the counters of Dubai ports; the number is set to increase. "These officers are strap-ped for time, so we train them to spot signs of impersonation within six seconds, and fake passports within maximum of five minutes," said Alnajjar, noting that officers are constantly trained on new forgery trends that come up.

Through advanced retrochecks - a machine that helps check travel documents that are suspect - introduced to every counter at Dubai airports, first-line officers determine whether a document is genuine. "Most of the cases we see are fake first pages of passports, which are detectable at least 80 per cent of the time to front-line officers," said Alnajjar.
Impersonation is spotted through looking at prominent features of a person such as face structure, ear and eye shape.

When in doubt, the documents are transferred to 18 second-line officers, whose offices lie close to the first-liners. Alnajjar said the centre will be looking to deploy more officers in the coming period.

If physical evidence indicates that the document is fake, the documents are then checked by 50 employees at the main centre, located at Dubai airport's terminal 1.

Alnajjar added that eight remote machines scattered across Dubai airports' three terminals, Al Maktoum International Airport, besides other sea and land ports around Dubai, allow officers to transfer suspect documents to the main centre in a process that takes less than 10 minutes. "It saves time and cost and avoids delays for passengers," he said.

While two-thirds - about 66 per cent - of cases detected are fraud impersonation, the majority of cases witnessed are passengers who fell victim to promises of pursuing a better life. "Many people from developing countries fall victim to forgers who promise them a better life away from the political conflicts in their countries. They sell all they have to get their so-called new passports, which they are unaware are fake," said Alnajjar.

If fake travel documents are caught on arrival to the country, said Alnajjar, the person at fault is deported on the spot, after being blacklisted. If caught on the way out, the centre transfers the forged documents to the police to take further action.

The centre, however, is looking to introduce ways to file reports and transfer them to Dubai courts directly. "We are looking to save time and delays to passengers and the police by introducing a new service through which we can file reports to the court directly without having to go through the police," he said. 

The ambition is to make the centre an institute for travel document examination. "Within the next five years, we want to be the point of reference in the region, where we train people on passport checking," said Alnajjar.

Major security features in passports

Majority of passports around the world have 19 security features that determine document accuracy. The most basic 10 are:

> Watermark (a faint design made on paper during manufacture, and visible when held against the light)
> Security thread (found on the corner of passport pages)
> Coloured fibres (small fibres on passports visible to the
naked eye)
> Fluorescent fibres (visible only under ultraviolet rays)
> Fluorescent ink (visible only under ultraviolet rays)
> Microprinting (information printed on passport that cannot be read without magnifiers; diff-icult to be copied)
> Optical Variable Ink (OVI)
> Intaglio printing
> Electrotype watermark
> Guilloche (complicated patterned print difficult to copy)

Number of forged documents detected by GDRFA

January to December 2016

Fake passports: 657

Altered passports: 21

Fraud impersonation cases: 391

Total: 1,069

In the month of January 2017

Fake passports: 61

Altered passports: 1

Fraud impersonation cases: 26

Total: 88

THREE IMMIGRATION OFFICERS HELD AFTER 53 PEOPLE FLY OUT ON FAKE PASSPORTS

The accused’s nexus with travel agents came to light after a woman with fake passport was deported from Canada in May.

Fifty-three people with phoney names and passports — and motives that are not clear — walked past immigration counters at the Mumbai airport and flew out of the country, a severe lapse that has left security agencies scrambling for answers.

The series of illegal exits were allegedly facilitated by three assistant investigation officers with the airport immigrant department over the past seven months, according to the Sahar police.

All three — Anil Surse (35), Harshad Patil (33) and Praveen Ansar More (33) — were arrested recently. Police investigators suspect the trio took cash from immigration and travel agents and manually overruled the red flags raised by the passenger screening systems over the 53 travellers’ bogus passport and visa details. The officers let the people to pass without any questions.

Officials at all immigration counters run every passenger’s passport and visa through a computer to verify his/her credentials. No one can skip this security step before boarding an international flight. Airlines also conduct separate checks.

Sahar cops, the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Mumbai police’s special branch are trying to determine how the 53 passengers managed to dodge multiple levels of scrutiny. Is there a nexus between certain immigration officials and travel agents, how did the passengers land in front of only those counters that were being operated by the three arrested officers — immigration lines are created at random — and where are the passengers now? These are some of the questions the agencies are trying to answer.

But the most troubling part is that no one knows the 53 travellers’ real identities: are they victims of a trafficking racket, are they illegal immigrants looking to start a life in a new country, or more worryingly, are they part of a terror network?

Mirror could not get a confirmation about the travellers’ suspicious exit from central security agencies and the immigration department. But the Sahar police insisted they had a case with serious implications on their hands.

“This is a serious security issue as we have no details of the 53 people who left the country. There is no information on who these people are and where they have gone,” said senior inspector Baburao Mukedkar of the Sahar police station. “We have been coordinating with various agencies to track them down. All we have is copies of their fake passports and their pictures that were taken by cameras at the immigration counters.”

Sahar cops fear the actual number of people who sneaked out of the country using fake identities may be higher.

The racket came to light in May after an Indian woman with a fake passport was arrested in Canada. She was deported the next day and she later revealed the existence of a collaboration between traffickers and some immigration officers. Three travel agents — Gaurav Singh, Mukadam Ali and Mushtak Kapde — were subsequently arrested and they disclosed the involvement of the three assistant investigation officers.

Initially, the trio denied wrongdoing. They said there was a lot of chaos near the immigration counters and they allowed the passengers to pass by mistake. But they later admitted that they did receive specific information about passengers from travel agents who paid them for their ‘help’ at the airport, according to the Sahar police.

Fake US embassy in Ghana shut down after 10 years issuing visas

Ghanaian and Turkish crime rings ‘paid corrupt officials to look the other way’ to illegally obtain authentic documents

   The exterior of the fake embassy in Accra, Ghana.  Photograph: US Department of State

 The exterior of the fake embassy in Accra, Ghana. Photograph: US Department of State

Authorities in Ghana have busted a fake US embassy in the capital Accra run by a criminal network that for a decade issued illegally obtained authentic visas, the US state department has said.

Until it was shut down, the sham embassy was housed in a rundown, pink two-storey building with a corrugated iron roof and flew an American flag outside. Inside hung a portrait of the US president, Barack Obama.

“It was not operated by the United States government, but by figures from both Ghanaian and Turkish organised crime rings and a Ghanaian attorney practising immigration and criminal law,” the state department said in a statement.

Turkish citizens who spoke English and Dutch posed as consular officers and staffed the operation. Investigations also uncovered a fake Dutch embassy, the state department said. Officials in the Netherlands were not immediately reachable for comment on Sunday.

The crime ring issued fraudulently obtained but legitimate US visas and false identification documents, including birth certificates at a cost of $6,000 (£4,700) each, the statement said.

During raids that led to a number of arrests, authorities also seized authentic and counterfeit Indian, South African and Schengen zone visas and 150 passports from 10 different countries along with a laptop and smartphones.

  The real US embassy in Accra, Ghana.  Photograph: diplomacy.state.gov

The real US embassy in Accra, Ghana. Photograph: diplomacy.state.gov

The statement did not say how the gang obtained the authentic visas or how many people were believed to have illegally entered the US and other countries using visas issued by the crime ring.

“The criminals running the operation were able to pay off corrupt officials to look the other way, as well as obtain legitimate blank documents to be doctored,” the statement said. There was no immediate comment from Ghana’s Criminal Investigations Division.

Visas for western countries are in high demand in Africa and embassies say the visa market is a big target for organised crime. The real US embassy in Ghana is a prominent and heavily fortified complex in Cantonments, one of the capital’s most expensive neighbourhoods. Lines of people queue outside each day for visa appointments and other consular business.

The fake embassy was open three mornings a week and did not accept walk-in appointments. Instead, the criminals advertised on billboards in Ghana, Togo and Ivory Coast and brought clients from across west Africa to Accra where they rented them hotel rooms in nearby hotels.

US authorities conducting a broader security operation were tipped off about it and assembled a team including the Ghana Detectives Bureau and police as well as other international partners to shut down the ring

Clients of convicted immigration consultant facing deportation for lying

500 more people under investigation for falsely obtaining permanent residency and Canadian citizenship

  Pei Jia Li peeks through the doors after his hearing at the Immigration and Refugee Board this week in Vancouver. He was ruled 'inadmissible to Canada' for having fraudulent entry and exit stamps in his passport.  (Harold Dupuis/CBC )

Pei Jia Li peeks through the doors after his hearing at the Immigration and Refugee Board this week in Vancouver. He was ruled 'inadmissible to Canada' for having fraudulent entry and exit stamps in his passport. (Harold Dupuis/CBC )

One by one, many of the 1,200 former clients of an unlicensed Richmond, B.C., immigration consultant are getting the bad news — they're no longer welcome in Canada because they lied.

CBC News has learned 320 immigrants, who each paid thousands of dollars to New Can Consulting and owner Xun (Sunny) Wang, are now facing deportation to China.

One year ago, Wang, 47, was convicted of one of the biggest immigration scams in Canadian history — making $10 million by filing fraudulent immigration applications for his clients.

In one of his ploys, Wang falsely used his own home in Richmond as an address for 114 of his clients who didn't live in Canada. 

  Convicted immigration fraudster Xun (Sunny) Wang used his own home in Richmond as a fake address for at least 114 of his clients.  (Mike Zimmer/CBC )

Convicted immigration fraudster Xun (Sunny) Wang used his own home in Richmond as a fake address for at least 114 of his clients. (Mike Zimmer/CBC )

His appeal of his seven-year prison term and $900,000 fine was rejected last month.

Three of his former employees will be sentenced in January and three more are awaiting trial. At least three others have warrants out for their arrest.

Now the Canada Border Services Agency says of Wang's 320 ex-clients facing review of their immigration status, approximately 200 could be stripped of their citizenship and 120 could lose their permanent residency status.

Hundreds of other former New Can clients could also be in trouble.

500 more cases being investigated

In an email to CBC News, the border agency said it is continuing efforts to "uncover fraud on approximately 500 cases remaining to be investigated".

That means out of the 1,200 clients of New Can, over 800 could ultimately be sent back to China.

Guo Liang Lin is one of them.

At his recent hearing before the Immigration Refugee Board (IRB), the clean-cut man in his late 40s was ruled "inadmissible to Canada due to misrepresentation."

  Immigration consultant Eric Leung, left, and client Guo Liang Lin. Lin admits he signed documents that said he lived in Canada three times longer than he actually had to obtain permanent residency. Lin was working with a different immigration company at the time, which he blames for falsifying records . (Manjula Dufresne/CBC )

Immigration consultant Eric Leung, left, and client Guo Liang Lin. Lin admits he signed documents that said he lived in Canada three times longer than he actually had to obtain permanent residency. Lin was working with a different immigration company at the time, which he blames for falsifying records. (Manjula Dufresne/CBC )

Lin was issued an exclusion order, banning him from re-entry into Canada for five years unless he gets permission from immigration officials to come back sooner — something an immigration and refugee spokesperson says rarely happens.

Lin immediately launched an appeal on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, a move that will allow him to remain in Canada for nine to 12 months until his case is reviewed by the Immigration Appeal Division.

Passport 'falsified'

To obtain details of Lin's case, CBC News attended his IRB hearing on Nov. 23.

The board adjudicator heard that Lin, who received permanent resident status in 2010, had spent just seven months in Canada over five years — not the minimum two years required by law.

This allowed him to live and work in China, while keeping his wife, son and daughter in B.C.

But his passport was altered by New Can Consulting, his IRB hearing heard, with entry and exit stamps falsified to make it appear Lin had spent 980 days, or just over 2½ years, in Canada.

Permanent residents are entitled to most social benefits in Canada, including health care.

  A page of a passport showing entry and exit stamps that were falsified to meet residency requirements to maintain permanent residence in Canada. (CBSA)

A page of a passport showing entry and exit stamps that were falsified to meet residency requirements to maintain permanent residence in Canada. (CBSA)

Despite his prolonged absences in the past, Lin says being forced to return to China will unfairly separate him from his wife and children. "[My] family members are all in Canada," he told CBC News outside his hearing, "So me alone in China, this is a hardship".

  Seized passports and stamps used in the immigration scam by New Can Consulting are displayed by the Canada Border Services Agency.  (CBSA)

Seized passports and stamps used in the immigration scam by New Can Consulting are displayed by the Canada Border Services Agency. (CBSA)

Lin's new immigration consultant, Eric Leung, who is helping Lin with his IRB case, blames the deceptive practices of New Can consulting, saying Lin was an innocent victim who signed documents that were in English, not his native Mandarin."My client did not understand English, so they trusted the agent. The agent asked [him] to sign, and [he] signed."

$7-million home

CBC News attended an IRB hearing for another former client of New Can Consulting, Pei Jia Li. Li, 51, lives in a $7-million Kerrisdale home and drives a luxury SUV.

A permanent resident, he also had fraudulent entry and exit stamps in his passport, his IRB hearing heard — and he, too, was quickly ruled inadmissible to Canada on grounds of misrepresentation.

  Pei Jia Li, a permanent resident who has fraudulent entry and exit stamps in his passport, lives in this $7-million home in Kerrisdale, an affluent neighbourhood in Vancouver.  (Harold Dupuis/CBC )

Pei Jia Li, a permanent resident who has fraudulent entry and exit stamps in his passport, lives in this $7-million home in Kerrisdale, an affluent neighbourhood in Vancouver. (Harold Dupuis/CBC )

Like Lin, Li has filed an appeal. Li pulled a hoodie over his head and later roared off in his SUV when approached by CBC News.

But his lawyer, Andrew Wlodyka, also blames New Can Consulting for the possible deportation orders now facing 800 of the company's former clients. "The consultants were absolutely dealing with people who are totally ignorant. They didn't even realize that the consultant was not even licensed," says Wlodyka.

  Lawyer Andrew Wlodyka, who represented Pei Jia Li at his admissibility hearing, says the clients of the convicted consultant are victims and should be allowed to stay in Canada.  (Harold Dupuis/CBC)

Lawyer Andrew Wlodyka, who represented Pei Jia Li at his admissibility hearing, says the clients of the convicted consultant are victims and should be allowed to stay in Canada. (Harold Dupuis/CBC)

"A lot of these people have actually made a significant contribution to Canadian society. They laid roots here, they've bought property, they've established businesses. So it's a really tragic situation."

"All of the circumstances have to be looked at to determine whether booting them out of Canada is the right thing."

Both Li and Lin have indicated they will argue they weren't responsible for the fraudulent tactics of New Can Consulting. But they could face an uphill battle.

The federal court has ruled that misrepresentation in immigration cases can be direct or indirect. If a consultant misrepresents a client, the client is ultimately responsible for that misrepresentation, since the immigrant has a duty to ensure their information is complete and accurate.

More needed to stop 'ghost consultants'

Still, Lin's immigration consultant Eric Leung maintains his client isn't at fault.

He says the Canadian government hasn't been keeping other immigration consultants honest. "The problem is there must be somebody doing something to manage those we call ghost consultants or those licensed consultants doing something not right," he says.

Leung believes that while New Can has been shut down and owner (Sunny) Wang thrown in prison, other dishonest consultants are still busy filing fraudulent claims on behalf of clients.

"We should not stop the investigation. We have to find all of them. I personally do think there are always non-stop cheating issues around our country, around B.C. province. Definitely."

If Leung's suspicion is followed up by Canadian immigration officials, it could mean many more permanent residents and Canadian citizens who obtained their status through dubious consultants could be looking over their shoulders in the months to come.

EU’s passport fraud ‘epidemic’

Refugee crisis and Paris attacks put spotlight on Europe’s free-for-all. Greece and Italy trouble US officials the most.

ROME — Europe’s trade in forged and stolen passports is so out of control that the U.S. has given five EU countries until next week to act or risk losing visa-free travel right

The threat comes in response to growing alarm over the rising number of lost and stolen documents in the EU, which has doubled in five years. The number of forged passports in the Middle East is also a rising concern. Interpol has data on 250,000 stolen or lost Syrian and Iraqi passports, including blank documents.

American and European security officials speak of an “epidemic” created by a spike in demand from asylum-seekers — and from terrorists like those who carried out the Paris attacks last November, two of whom were carrying counterfeit documents.

In the aftermath of Paris, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security became so worried about the implications for screening travelers to America that it gave France, Belgium, Germany, Italy and Greece a February 1 deadline to fix “crucial loopholes” or lose access to the U.S. visa waiver program. The program allows about 20 million people per year from 38 countries, most of them in Europe, to enter the United States for business or pleasure without a visa.

Next week, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson will report to President Barack Obama on how these countries have progressed.

On the issue of fraudulent passports, U.S. officials see a particular problem with two of the five: Greece and Italy.

The importance of counterfeit documents “as a facilitator in the movement of terrorists” is nothing new, said Interpol’s director of operational support and analysis, Michael O’Connell, pointing to the findings of the 9/11 Commission Report in the U.S..

European governments are aware of the problem. When EU justice and interior ministers met in Amsterdam on Monday, France’s Bernard Cazeneuve called for the creation of a task force to tackle a “real industry of false documents in Iraq, Syria and Libya,” which he said was run by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL.

Cazeneuve said fraudulent passports are “very hard to detect” because they are often genuine documents seized from pubic offices overrun by ISIL or taken from dead soldiers or civilians. The French minister said that combating this trade was crucial to avoiding “further atrocities in future.”

Lost in transit

Two of the men who blew themselves up at the Stade de France on November 13 had used fake Syrian passports to cross into Greece. Four days later, Serbian police arrested a man with a Syrian passport that had the same details as one found near the body of one of the suicide bombers.

On December 16, Austrian police arrested two men who requested asylum using fake Syrian passports, and a few days later, two Syrians with an Austrian and a Norwegian passport were arrested in Italy en route to Malta.

Greece and Italy are especially important in efforts to combat the traffic in illegal documents because of their position as front-line states in Europe’s refugee crisis — and by extension, in the fight against ISIL.

“Document fraud is an important enabler of organized crime and terrorism, clearly. There is a whole subset of criminal activity and a criminal sector that is involved in stealing passports and producing sophisticated passports and supplying them to the criminal market.” — Europol Director Rob Wainwright

One Greek intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that “between five and seven percent of all Greek passports stem from fake ID cards or birth certificates,” which he acknowledged were “fairly easy” to procure.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry brought up this problem with Greek officials when he visited Athens in early December, sources said. Ten days later, the Greek ministry of public order and the police set up a joint task force which has until the end of February to come up with a plan to replace existing national ID cards with electronic versions with a computer chip.

In Italy, pubic prosecutors are due in two weeks to release the findings of an investigation into the theft of hundreds of faulty passports from a batch of thousands on their way to be pulped 18 months ago. Police were only alerted to the theft a few months later when a traveler attempted to use a passport at Rome’s Fiumicino airport, with a serial number that records showed had supposedly been destroyed.

It is not just Greece and Italy that have a problem.

“There are certain countries, like Sweden, where you can lose your passports four to six times in a year and get four to six new passports. To date I believe there are at least 20,000 duplicates out there,” said one EU security official with knowledge of the issue, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

A whole travel package, including an EU passport, can cost up to €10,000.

Fake and fraudulent European passports are more expensive than Middle Eastern ones because they come under less scrutiny at the border. According to police from several European countries, prices on the black market for stolen, lost or forged EU documents range from €2,000 to €7,000.

“A whole travel package, including an EU passport, can cost up to €10,000,” said an Austrian intelligence official. “From what we know, the main production units are in the Balkans, followed by Turkey.”

People smugglers

Europol, the EU’s law enforcement agency, said criminal gangs have been investing more in the production of fake documents since they spotted a business opportunity in the migrant crisis.

“In the last period of last year we have seen the increasing importance of documents forgery and of identity forgery in the business of smuggling people to Europe,” Europol Director Rob Wainwright told POLITICO.

“Document fraud is an important enabler of organized crime and terrorism, clearly. There is a whole subset of criminal activity and a criminal sector that is involved in stealing passports and producing sophisticated passports and supplying them to the criminal market,” said Wainwright.

In the last six years, Interpol has seen a sharp uptick in the number of missing passports — within Europe and around the globe.

As part of broader efforts to address major shortcomings in coordination between national security agencies and police that were highlighted by the Paris attacks, interior ministers called in November for all EU external border control points to be connected to Interpol’s global databases and for automatic screening of travel documents by March this year.

Access to Interpol’s databases enables instant checks against nearly 55 million travel documents. The agency’s database of Stolen and Lost Travel Documents was set up in 2002, in the aftermath of 9/11, to help member countries detect the use of fraudulent travel documents. Among the documents logged are nearly 30,000 Syrian passports, of which about 4,000 were stolen as blank documents.

Interpol is keen for policymakers at every level — from the U.N. and EU to national governments and parliaments — to make fuller use of its data “to help them in their national security architecture and also to remind them that the misuse of identity documents facilitates crime and terror,” said Interpol’s O’Connell.

“We have to raise the level of public awareness and properly educate people to protect their identity the same way they do with their credit cards,” O’Connell said.

“They have to realize that a lost passport is a gateway for international travel and a public commodity to trade nowadays.”

PASSPORT TO TERROR: MailOnline reporter buys Syrian papers being sold to ISIS fighters sneaking into Europe hidden among refugees

  • Reporter bought $2,000 Syrian passport, ID card and driving licence in Turkey under the name of a real man who was killed in the conflict

  • Forger boasted that ISIS fighters are using documents to travel to Europe to start terror sleeper cells or live under false name free of past crimes

  • Also being used by economic migrants from other countries exploiting generosity of Europe to Syrian refugees

  • Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee told MailOnline the scam was 'deeply disturbing' and should be 'addressed immediately'

  • The blank documents are genuine, having been stolen from government offices by militias fighting regime of Bashar Al-Assad

  • EU border official admits fraud is rising and bigger than first thought


  •  
  Easy: Our reporter was able to acquire the $2,000 haul of documents within just four days from criminals. Above are Syrian passport, driving licence and identity card

Easy: Our reporter was able to acquire the $2,000 haul of documents within just four days from criminals. Above are Syrian passport, driving licence and identity card

The documents, on sale for around $2,000, would help an asylum claim in Europe.

The forger who sold us the papers, said that they are being used by ISIS fanatics to travel undetected across borders into Europe hidden among tens of thousands of genuine refugees fleeing the terror and destruction.

Once in Europe they can set up sleeper cells or live freely under a new identity without facing the consequences of their brutal past actions. 

ISIS fighters are among the people going to Europe in this way. They are going to Europe to wait for the right time to become a fighter for ISIS again 

  Fake identity: The documents are all genuinely made - having been plundered by Syrian opposition forces including ISIS - as they overran offices held by Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad

Fake identity: The documents are all genuinely made - having been plundered by Syrian opposition forces including ISIS - as they overran offices held by Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad

As the forger chillingly put it: 'ISIS fighters are among the people going to Europe in this way. They are going to wait for the right time to become a fighter for ISIS again.' The revelation comes as Lebanon warned two in every 100 Syrian migrants smuggled into Europe are ISIS-trained fanatics, with most travelling overland through Turkey to Greece.

The extremist group is sending trained jihadists 'under cover' to attack targets in the west, Lebanese Education Minister Elias Bousaab told British Prime Minister David Cameron during his visit to the country on Monday.

'ISIS will not stop at the border with Lebanon, before you know it ISIS will be in Europe,' Mr Bousaab claimed. The bogus papers are also being used by economic migrants from other Middle Eastern states who know that a Syrian asylum claim will be met with more sympathy following the civil war which has so far forced an estimated four million people to flee. 

The recent death of Aylan Kurdi, the three-year-old boy pictured after he was washed up on a Turkish shore, has heightened demands for countries to take in Syrian refugees and propelled their plight to the top of the international agenda.

Germany alone is expected to take in a million Syrians this year and is putting other European nations under pressure to sign up to a quota system.  The forger told MailOnline: 'Everyone wants to be Syrian now – because now everyone welcomes Syrians'  

Everyone wants to be Syrian now – because now everyone welcomes Syrians. There are Palestinians, Egyptians, Iraqis, people from all over the Arab world who are pretending to be Syrian so they can have a new life in Europe 

Forger

The passport book MailOnline acquired is genuine, made from a batch seized from one of the many Syrian government offices captured by advancing opposition forces.

The forger explained that the militias fighting the forces of Assad make a beeline for government offices when they over-run a town. They know the value of the documents there and steal the passports, papers and even the printers that are used to create identity cards and driving licences.

'I don't know which town this passport came from because it has happened many times,' he said.'Fighters – from the Free Syrian Army, Al Nusra, ISIS or whatever – they know the value of these documents. They take them and they give them to us. They ask us to make new identities for them and their families so they can travel outside Syria.

'We do this for them and they leave us some of the books so we can sell them. There are many people – Syrian people – who have lost their passports and identity cards because of the chaos of the war. They want new documents to help them in Europe.'

He went on: 'Everyone wants to be Syrian now – because now everyone welcomes Syrians. There are Palestinians, Egyptians, Iraqis, people from all over the Arab world who are pretending to be Syrian so they can have a new life in Europe.

 

  Dead man walking: The passport was in the name of a real man who had died in the Syrian city of Aleppo

Dead man walking: The passport was in the name of a real man who had died in the Syrian city of Aleppo

Claims: The forger told MailOnline that 'everyone wants to be Syrian now – because now everyone welcomes Syrians. There are Palestinians, Egyptians, Iraqis, people from all over the Arab world pretending to be Syrian so they can have a new life in Europe'. Pictured are migrants at Salzburg station, Austria on Tuesday

'ISIS fighters are among the people going to Europe in this way. They are going to wait for the right time to become a fighter for ISIS again.'

Alarm bells began to ring as to the scale of the problem earlier this month when German customs officers seized packages containing a large number of blank Syrian passports. The packages contained both genuine and fake passport books. 

Frontex, the EU border agency, has reported an increase in the seizure of Syrian passports for sale although they admit they as yet have no idea of the size of the problem. 'The latest figures confirm that document fraud is on the rise,' a spokesman told MailOnline. 'Imposters use another person's documents taking advantage of their physical resemblance to the original holders, as often difficult to identify.

'Research studies show that the extent of the problem is much wider than can be assessed from the number of revealed cases.

There is little doubt that evil jihadists will be keen to exploit the present refugee crisis to infiltrate their way into Europe and the UK. In the present chaos fake passports provide almost perfect cover 

'[Syrian passports] are found in the hands of Iraqis and Palestinians. There is also a rising phenomenon of migrants from Algeria, Egypt or Morocco claiming falsely to be of Syrian nationality.' 

The blue passport book is printed with the words Syrian Arab Republic in Arabic, English and French on the cover. It bears a Syrian coat of arms – an eagle holding a shield of the national flag and a scroll with an inscription in Arabic.

The 48-page booklet has a bar code and serial number.

The passport states in Arabic, English and French that the photograph is the image of a 48-year-old Christian man called Jak Abdullah Fraam who was born in 1967 in Aleppo. It states that his father is called Mishail and his mother Lena.

The document gives the holder permission, from the Syrian government, to travel to countries in the Middle East, Europe, North America, African and South America. However Syrians need visas to enter almost every country apart from Sudan and Lebanon. Other Syrian passports have restrictions on which country the bearer can travel to.

The identity card bears the official government seal and is printed using machinery captured by opposition forces and handed over to master forgers.

The Syrian coast of arms is embossed into the card. An image of the Syrian coat of arms sits underneath the photograph. There is a watermark-style image on the right-hand corner and on the back of the ID card.

The international driving licence was issued by the Traffic Police Department of the Syrian Ministry of Interior. It bears the official stamp of the Chief of Governorate Police.

These three documents together provide almost irrefutable evidence of a life in Syria before the war and would support a claim for asylum in Europe. The manufacture of passports and identity documents by forgers began innocently following the collapse of Assad's Syrian regime, when many citizens lost their official papers in the chaos and society broke down.

But this 'public service' has been hijacked by unscrupulous criminals who will sell anyone the documents to claim they are Syrian.'At first it was a way to keep normal life going,' a Syrian with knowledge of the practice of creating new passports told MailOnline.

'When someone got married they needed a certificate. When a baby was born they needed a certificate. When someone wanted to go abroad they needed a passport. But in much of the country there was no government.

'However, the people who had worked for the government, local people in each town or city liberated from the regime, were still there.

The extent of the problem is much wider than can be assessed from the number of revealed cases 

EU border agency Frontex

'They understood that people needed documents, so they helped them and got a bit of money for themselves. But now there are people who are only interested in the money. They don't care who they sell a passport to - even if they are terrorists.'

Former Scotland Yard detective, and passport and identity fraud expert, Tom Craig, told MailOnline that the passport and other documents would be enough to get someone into the EU. 'While there are some discrepancies the passport is good enough to get someone into Greece or Italy. 

'It appears to be an old style passport rather than a modern one. The booklet appears genuine and so does the paper.' It took just four days for MailOnline investigators to buy the haul in Turkey.

Publishing precise details of the operation would put the lives of Syrian and Turkish investigators in danger, but in essence it was surprisingly easy. 

The reporter sent a photograph via social media to the forger in Syria, who made the documents and then smuggled the documents over the porous border and dropped off for collection.

Keith Vaz, the chairman of the Home Affairs committee told MailOnline the revelations were 'deeply disturbing'.Concern: Tory MP Philip Hollobone told MailOnline that 'there is little doubt that evil jihadists will be keen to exploit the present refugee crisis to infiltrate their way into Europe and the UK' 

He said: 'The ease with which a fake Syrian identity card has been obtained so easily is deeply disturbing. It is essential that all countries need to obtain the necessary equipment to check the validity of these documents. This represents a huge problem that needs to be addressed immediately.'

Philip Hollobone, Conservative MP for Kettering, said the MailOnline investigation had brought a serious security to light.He said: 'I would like to congratulate MailOnline for your work in exposing this very serious security issue.

'There is little doubt that evil jihadists will be keen to exploit the present refugee crisis to infiltrate their way into Europe and the UK. In the present chaos fake passports provide almost perfect cover.'The UK Border Force will need to be extra vigilant to separate genuine refugees from ISIS operatives.'

Philip Davies, Conservative MP for Shipley, said: 'This is a very worrying development and highlights why we need to properly control our borders and not get so get so overwhelmed by a compassionate desire to help people that we let down our guard.

'There are many people who want to exploit our generosity and the Government must not let it happen.'

MailOnline has contacted the Turkish authorities to inform them of the scam.


 

Dark web vendors sell blank British passports and entry to passport database for just £2,000

Fake British passports convincing enough to pass through airport security are being sold on the dark web.

  Fake UK passports are driving licenses are for sale on various dark web marketplacesIBTimes UK

Fake UK passports are driving licenses are for sale on various dark web marketplacesIBTimes UK

The passports, which are claimed to include all the security features of the genuine article - such as biometric data and RFID chips to use in automated airport customs gates - are being sold anonymously for bitcoin and in some cases cost as little as £460.

Home to drug-dealing websites like the infamous Silk Road, the dark web is a part of the internet where websites cannot be found by search engines like Google, and are only accessible through a special internet browser called Tor.

Speaking to an undercover IBTimes UK reporter, several dark web vendors guaranteed that their fake passports would work as ID to open bank accounts and to travel to any country; some offered to include visa stamps to add to their legitimacy.

'We are selling a real passport...there are no limitations'

When asked about the authenticity of a passport, one seller on the Nucleus marketplace said: "We are selling a real passport to you. It works like any other passport from the authority. We are the only one network in the darknet who have this connection...There are no name limitations...All the data [appearing on the passport] is provided by the bearer of the passport and it's all new."

 One dark web vendor shows what he claims to be a fake British passport for saleIBTimes UK

One dark web vendor shows what he claims to be a fake British passport for saleIBTimes UK

Where some sellers can only include data from individuals already on the passport database, this one claims to have an insider who can create genuine passports with an entirely new set of credentials provided by the buyer. For this service the seller charges just €2,000 (£1,400). The seller asks for 25% up front to cover their insider's fee, after which photos of the passport will be sent to the buyer, who is then asked to pay the remaining 75%.

Another darknet website called UK Passports charges £2,000 for "original UK passports made with your info/picture," and claims "your info will get entered into the official passport database."

  This deep web site sells fake British passports and a place in the passport database for £2,000 IBTimes UK

This deep web site sells fake British passports and a place in the passport database for £2,000 IBTimes UK

When asked if a single employee can add a new set of records to the passport database, a spokesperson for HM Passport Office did not answer the question directly, but told IBTimes UK that there are "a number of measures in place to assure the work of each member of staff who processes passport applications."

The spokesperson also said biographical details are only added to the database "once an application has been properly examined, all checks have been completed and a decision to issue a passport has been taken."

'We take this issue extremely seriously'

They added: "Obtaining a fraudulent passport doesn't just enable travel, it can facilitate other crimes like identity and financial fraud. This is therefore an issue we take extremely seriously.

"The British passport is one of the most secure and trusted documents in the world...Where we detect forged or counterfeit documents we without question refuse visa applications and anyone involved in the supply of forged or counterfeit documents faces prosecution."

Passport and ID manufacturers 3M and De La Rue did not respond to our requests for comment.
'The passport is a genuine blank...sent from the manufacturer'

Prices for passports bought on the dark web vary wildly. One website charges just €650 (£460) and an extra €100 for a UK driving license, while another marketplace vendor asked for $35,000 (£22,500) to add a buyer's details to the Canadian passport database and provide them with a genuine passport. The seller claims to have a batch of six blank Canadian passports and the ability to add names to the database. He said getting hold of them was "terrifying," and "unless the money is really, really enticing [I am] not going to try it again."

  This seller claims to be selling six real, blank Canadian passports and can make buyers a genuine Canadian citizenIBTimes UK

This seller claims to be selling six real, blank Canadian passports and can make buyers a genuine Canadian citizenIBTimes UK

In a series of private messages the seller described his listing as a "unique opportunity," which allows for "trafficking across [the] US-Canada border with convenience, efficiency and ease."

The vendor said he had obtained the blank documents through his work as "a policy advisor for Canadian State department," adding: "I help make internal policies for department of citizenship and immigration. The passport is a genuine blank from our back office as sent from the manufacturer,"

In addition to a passport with any details the buyer wants, the seller also offered to "fully register your new identity with your photographic information in our department database. This will make you a full Canadian citizen and you can renew every decade like everyone else does...someone below me can encode it, imprint your custom data onto it."

IBTimes UK reported this seller to Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

A second seller claimed to offer a similar service in Germany, where a buyer can be issued with a real German passport and added to the country's passport database for $8,500.

In all, we found dark web vendors selling passports for the UK, US, Canada, Russia, Ukraine, France, Germany, Lithuania and Belgium, plus driving licenses and ID cards from almost all European countries.

  Another vendor claims to be selling a genuine German passport with the buyer's name and photo for $8,500IBTimes UK

Another vendor claims to be selling a genuine German passport with the buyer's name and photo for $8,500IBTimes UK

Passports 'successfully pass all existing tests'

Returning to sellers of British passports, one said they can produce passports with RFID chips installed and which "successfully pass all existing tests." The seller insisted: "We didn't get any complaints from our customers on the problems with customs, airports or any other law authorities during travelling," then emailed photos of every page of what he claims is a fake UK passport.

A different seller admitted they cannot add new names to the passport database, but they have access to some names and the corresponding biographical information already on it. Using this, they create and sell clones of registered passports.

But scamming is rife on the darknet. One seller who produces fake driving licenses said they do not produce passports, and that "anyone offering them will be a scam, without a doubt," adding: "Much like the new generation IDs, passports are nearly impossible to accurately replicate, and with the addition of biometrics, it makes a forgery useless for travel...we advise extreme caution to anyone looking to buy fake passports."

  A forged UK driving license complete with DVLA hologram is shown to IBTimes

A forged UK driving license complete with DVLA hologram is shown to IBTimes

This seller, along with many others, claims to produce "flawless" fake IDs and driving licenses from a range of different countries, including the UK. Inexplicably, most ID sellers use Sean Connery as James Bond on their examples; the seller emailed several photos of this example, including two showing how it reflects correctly under a UV light.

A full-time business

But business for fake UK driving licenses will soon dry up. One seller, who says producing forged ID is a full-time business, told us how the two most recent versions cannot be copied accurately. "At best you will find simple printed-on features that are not functional," they said, adding that these licenses cannot be produced "without massive industrial-grade and non-commercially available equipment."

Licenses offered by this vendor will expire in 2017, and they have no plans to offer any more in the future.

A spokesperson for the DVLA would not comment on how driving license are produced, or if creating accurate fakes is possible, but said many sellers "tread a fine line" by offering them as novelty items, not intended to be used in place of real ID. However, no listings seen by IBTimes UK described the products as novelty; the message was clear - these are intended to be used in place of real identification.

  The fake license includes holograms only visible under a UV light  IBTimes UK

The fake license includes holograms only visible under a UV light IBTimes UK

Finally, dark web marketplaces are packed with vendors selling scans of passports, registration documents, firearms licenses, bank statements and utility bills from various countries for between $100 and $300; these can be doctored to include the buyer's details, then used as a form of ID in some circumstances. At the time of publication, one vendor was offering a massive 13GB trove of scanned documents for just $100.

Forgers' days are numbered

Dark web vendors are remarkably upfront and honest about what they sell. They don't try to pass their products off as novelties and they don't ask questions of what buyers might want the documents for. They can hide in relative safety behind a mask of Tor, bitcoin, encryption and anonymous usernames, but their business is one which could soon be over, ended by advances in holograms and other security features too complex and expensive to copy.

Far from the millions of dollars hoovered up by drug sites like the original Silk Road and its short lived successor, fake ID and passport production feels more like a hobby undertook by a skilled, daring few who know their days are numbered.

That Chinese Passport Story Sure Looks Like a Hoax

[Update: It's Fake]

If it's happening in Asia, it must be true, right? Like the Chinese kid who scribbled on his dad's passport. Cute, sure, but it sure seems it could be a hoax.

The story floating around says a four-year-old apparently drew all over his dad's passport, making it impossible for the father to board a plane out of South Korea.

Here is said passport:

As someone with numerous children, I can quickly point out that, at least in my experience, four-year-olds don't draw that well.

And look how small this flower is. I have a difficult time believing that a four-year old's motor skills would be up to snuff, unless the child was advanced for his or her age.But there are more alarm bells. For example, if a child so young drew on the passport, there should be smearing, because, as evident in the image below, Chinese passports, like most passports, have a coat of gloss over the page with the photo, name, and passport number. The reason for this gloss, of course, is that this page needs to be slid through scanners, and the thin coat would logically cause smearing if a young child was writing on it, as well as odd ink bleeds.

But maybe you don't hang out with little kids and don't buy these explanations. Or maybe you think four-year-olds draw like this. Well, then, as pointed out earlier today on NeoGAF and 2channel, this looks like a Photoshop—or better yet, like it was done in MS Paint."Fake," writes GAF member Bloodforge. "Notice on the right side the pen marking goes off the passport and floats in the air."

Closer examination of the markings reveals that the "ink" remains constant in thickness. If you've ever dealt with MS Paint, these lines should be familiar.

Also, the perspective of the scribbles is entirely flat—there isn't depth to them, and they are unaffected by both the lighting and the orientation of the paper. And don't you think it's odd is that the the passport's key points of identification have been either doodled over or crossed out?

In the unrelated photo below, many of the key i.d. points on this man's passport are blurred out to protect his identity.

  On  Wiki , notice how  the same  sections are blurred out.

On Wiki, notice how the same sections are blurred out.

I guess we're to assume that if this is not a hoax, then the kid just accidentally drew over these key identifying elements—or maybe the father defaced his own passport after the kid drew on it so it could be uploaded to the internet? We're getting in super thin territory here.

But perhaps you still want to believe! Okay, I have a story about a Chinese parent who got stuck while traveling because a little kid drew all over the parent's passport. Here's the photo:

Actually, Kotaku's own Gergő Vas just drew these scribbles in MS Paint. Sorry to deceive you!

But, where even did this story originate? In the middle of last month, the above image apparently popped up on China's social networking platform Weibo, and then Chinese websites. From there, it's spread to the Western media, which increasingly seems disinterested in seeing if these stories pass the smell test.

Here's where things get interesting: Back in January in China, there was a story about a five-year-old child who did scribble all over a parent's passport, invalidating it. (The travel in this story also involved South Korea. What a coincidence!) But, instead of a black ink pen, this kid used a crayon—you know, as kids do. Here is what that five-year-old's drawing looked like:

Notice that it looks like an actual child's drawing? And that you can see reflected ink in the crayon? The story was widely reported in the Chinese media (herehere, and here). Hell, this might be a hoax—or rather, propaganda. The articles at that time mentioned how important it was to properly care of one's passport. Whatever it was, this several-month-old doodle certainly looks more realistic than the current scribbles making the rounds online recently.

Update: The Wall Street Journal writes, "Kotaku, a website mainly dedicated to computer games, said some of the intricate shapes in the drawing were unlikely to be possible for a four-year-old.

And the site was right. An official at the Chinese Embassy in Seoul told Korea Real Time the photo was a hoax and the South Korean immigration service hadn't prevented anyone traveling because of child's play on official travel documents." 

Chinese man gets stuck in South Korea after son, 4, doodles all over his passport picture

  • Child drew people, animals, and a beard - all in black pen - on the passport

  • Father was not allowed to pass through security and make it to his flight

  • The Chinese man is now stuck after border officials failed to be impressed


  •  
  A four-year-old artist decided to test his budding talents on his Chinese father's passport while on a family trip to South Korea   

A four-year-old artist decided to test his budding talents on his Chinese father's passport while on a family trip to South Korea
 

Thanks to his unrecognisable documentation, he was not allowed to pass through security and make it to his flight.  Authorities have now told the father - known only as Chen - that it is likely he won’t be able to travel home with his son, and the rest of his family.

  Thanks to his unrecognizable documentation, he was not allowed to pass through security and make it to his flight. Authorities have now told the father - known only as Chen - that it is likely he won't be able to travel home with his son, and the rest of his family   

Thanks to his unrecognizable documentation, he was not allowed to pass through security and make it to his flight. Authorities have now told the father - known only as Chen - that it is likely he won't be able to travel home with his son, and the rest of his family
 

The picture was originally posted on social networking site Weibo by the man, alongside a plea for help as to how he would be able to get home, Shanghaiist reports.  The drawing appears to include a cat, flowers and a few people like characters. The young artist has also drawn a beard and added some additional hair, sprouting from his father's face