Dubai: The Dubai Police uncovered 144 cases of passport forgery in the first six months of this year.
While the number of cases actually dropped from January to June compared to the 210 cases detected in the same period last year, this does not necessarily reflect a drop in the number of passports forged.
“One case could have 10 passports or more, another case could just have one,” explained Muna Salem Al Rashed Al Suweidi, an expert at the section.
“Our tally is only the number of cases, not the individual passports involved in a case.”
A forensic expert told XPRESS that hundreds of people with forged passports and visas were nabbed in Dubai in the last six months.
Aqil Al Najjar, head of the Questioned Documents Section at the Dubai Police Department of Forensic Science and Criminology, said: “Counterfeiting of passports, visas and documents is a million-dollar industry –- it affects people and families and, of course, state security,” he said.
The most commonly forged passports are Bangladeshi (25 cases); Pakistani (24); Afghan (22); Nigerian (nine) and British (eight).
In 2012, Al Suweidi said they found 370 fake passports – roughly one a day.
“Many of the victims are poor people from developing countries who transited through Dubai after being promised a new life in other countries, especially Europe,” said Al Najjar.
According to him, fraudsters may have targeted British passports due to their appeal among South Asians.
About 4,000 people were reportedly caught last year in Pakistan trying to acquire British passports by using fake documents.
Al Najjar said that no passport or visa system is absolutely foolproof, stressing that the problem calls for greater awareness and vigilance.
Late last month, 36-year-old Pakistani Nasir Iqbal transited through Dubai with a fake Schengen visa a forger had sold to him in Pakistan for $5,000 (Dh18,365).
“The 3D hologram on this one was done very well, but it was fake,” said Al Najjar.
“He cried when he learnt he would be sent back home. This happens a lot. Victims have more or less the same story: They sold property and jewellery or took out huge loans to pay for the fake passport or visa.”
Besides Pakistanis many of the victims are Iraqis and Afghans.
“A family of four gave $20,000 to the forgery gang after being promised a new life in Denmark. They transited through Dubai where the forgery was discovered. The victims believed they could be given asylum in those countries,” he said.
“They get shocked when they find the truth in Dubai. They want to escape trouble at home. But they end up jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.”
Officials are astonished by the sophistication of sham passports and visas.
“These forgers are getting better. No doubt [they] belong to a highly organised criminal group,” said Al Najjar.
It’s not just individuals who’re getting hit by these frauds.
“We have seen cases in which hotel guests in Dubai simply vanished without paying the bills and leaving counterfeit passports behind,” said Al Najjar.
According to him gangs have also been using forged passports to steal high-value vehicles with some vehicles stripped down and car parts cannibalised.
“There was this Arab lady who rented five luxury vehicles only to vanish, leaving the car rental shop with forged passports used as security.
“Previously, there was a number of cases involving Russian passports, but now we’ve also encountered Nigerian and Iraqi passports.
Moreover, forged identity cards are also used alongside forged credit cards. In one case, Al Najjar said, police found an African man with 25 fake credit cards. Each had corresponding ID cards forged with the photo of the same person using different names.
“People, especially the hotel front desk, car rental or retail check-out staff should be aware and take appropriate action when they detect something wrong. They need to use more careful screening of customers,” he said.
How crooks commit visa/passport fraud:
-Assuming the identity of a deceased person to apply for passports
-Using phony support documents, such as fake birth certificates
-Using stolen and altered passports (partial forgery)
-Using completely forged passport (total forgery)
Offenders commit passport crime to:
-Conceal their identity (fugitives and terrorists)
-Illegally enter another country or avoid deportation
-Commit financial crimes and bank fraud
-Facilitate other criminal activity such as drug trafficking or human smuggling
Source: U.S. State Department
Go to the nearest police station
Web address: www.alameen.ae
Have you or anyone you know fallen prey to forgers?