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Security features on the new Irish passport. samboal

Feud gangs using drug addicts to get false passports

The gangs target drug users indebted to them to assist in obtaining the passports.

GANGLAND CRIMINALS ARE using drug addicts to acquire fraudulent passports which the criminals are then using to escape Ireland undetected, has learned.

So far, at least three gangland figures are suspected to have used the method which sees the criminal obtaining a real passport with their face on it – but issued under a name different to their own. understands that there have been Garda investigations into how the passports are being processed and used as official documentation.

An Garda Siochána has not yet responded to a request for comment.

The gangs target drug users indebted to them to assist in obtaining passports, which are issued by the Passport Office based on fraudulent information provided to it.

Drug users who have never applied for passports before have their name used to apply for the passport and the Garda witness signature and stamp is forged. The pictures sent off with the documents are of the intended user and not the drug user whose name is being used. The documents are then sent off – the user receives his/her passport in the post which is then handed over to the criminal.

In the last five years, a number of criminals have been caught with documents in the names of other people. understands that a market for fake passports has intensified in the last six months as a number of people involved in the Kinahan/Hutch feud attempt to escape the country without being detected.

Many are either the subjects of arrest warrants here or in Europe. It is understood that at least one person managed to escape from the country just days before they were due to be arrested by gardaí.

In recent months, the relative of a Kinahan gang member has been caught with over half a dozen passports, leading gardaí to believe that the sophisticated enterprise is becoming more popular. It is also believed that senior members of both gangs are likely to travel with as many as five passports on their person at one time.

There has been an increase in surveillance of gangland figures in the last six months. Gardaí have regularly increased their patrols around the airport when they receive information that a gang member is in the vicinity. There have been a number of covert operations in and around Dublin airport in recent months. contacted the Department of Justice and the Department of Foreign Affairs and asked if it would comment on claims that a Garda investigation occurred in relation to passports. The departments were also asked if they were aware that a number of convicted criminals who are persons of interest in ongoing serious investigations were able to leave Ireland undetected by using these documents. received no comment from the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The Department of Justice did not explicitly answer one of the questions. However, it did say that it works with gardaí to support the “integrity of the passport process”.

A department spokesman said: “It is well known that criminals and criminal gangs seek to make use of false and stolen identification documents in order to facilitate their activities. Where evidence of such criminal activity is disclosed it is investigated by the Garda Authorities who are responsible for the investigation of crime. The Garda Authorities also work on ongoing basis with the Passport Office in supporting the integrity of the passport process.”

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Garreth MacNamee and Paul Hosford