News: Passport to the underworld

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Subject: News: Passport to the underworld
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Mon Mar 22 1999 - 16:55:48 EST


Passport to the underworld
Jane L. Thompson
National Post, March 20, 1999

The cash cow for the world's criminal element may very well be the
passport. With Interpol citing a dramatic increase in the number of
reported false travel documents (up 45% from 1995 to 1996), travellers are
being warned to be even more careful with their identity paperwork. While
travellers' cheques can always be replaced, a stolen passport could leave
you with a bad credit rating or a rap sheet listing a myriad of crimes you
didn't commit.

According to Corporal Fred Bowen of the RCMP's Immigration and Passport
Anti-smuggling Unit, Canada and the United States have among the most
desirable passports, although demand is high for any stable Western country
with a decent immigration policy.

Depending on the point of origin, a visa may be needed as well as a
passport. Consequently, forged visas and landed immigrant status and
citizenship cards vary in price depending upon the quality and the
desperation of the customer.

Canadian passports with a Caucasian photo and name can be found for $150 to
$250. For a name with an ethnic origin, such as Tamil, the price jumps to
roughly $7,000 to $8,000.

Now, if the person in the photo actually passes as a twin for the buyer,
that could fetch up to $10,000 on the street. The higher fee is for the
ease of the passport -- no photo needs to be glued on, and it looks
authentic (except for the fact, obviously, that it isn't you). If you're
paying someone to put in an Asian name and photo, with supporting ID and
birth certificate, you'll have to shell out $70,000.

Not surprisingly, since many of the people in need of forged documents have
no idea how their country of choice works, they can be suckered into paying
for things that don't seem outrageous to them, things that don't actually
exist, such as "Citizen of Ontario" or "Citizen of Canada" cards. Even
airline ticket staff, who are trained to look for these sorts of details,
may not be aware of a scam. Nervy travellers have even been known to use
passports for fictitious countries.

According to the Austrian Embassy in Ottawa, prices for faux Austrian
documents can range from $1,200 to $12,000. One of the reasons Austria is
so attractive is its proximity to less-privileged economies, where income
levels can be 10 times lower. Prosperity is just a day's travel by car for
the people living in these poorer nations. There's more demand for
fraudulent visas than passports, however, as Austrian passport requirements
easily single out fraudulent ones. For example, if the bearer has poor
German, officials will become immediately suspicious. After all,
citizenship, which comes with a passport, is achieved only after living in
Austria for six to 10 years. If someone hasn't grasped German by then
they're in trouble.

Andy Cole, a chief immigration officer in London, England, says the price
of fraudulent documents varies according to what the forger thinks you can
afford. So the more impoverished you are, the better the discount. Ranging
>from 120 and 180 to several hundred pounds, scams often involve
blackmailing clients, and promising a document at an initial price that is
subsequently jacked up on receipt. They're then forced to pay more each
month, under the threat of bodily harm to them or their family if they
renege. This doesn't just happen in London but throughout the United
Kingdom and Europe.

As for the United States -- home of "give me your tired, your poor, your
huddled masses yearning to breathe free" propagandizing -- well, maybe, if
you have a decent forged document. More than passports, it's that elusive
green card that's in demand. In the late fall last year, the U.S.
Immigration and Naturalization Service made the largest fraudulent document
seizure in its history. The cache of resident alien cards (green cards),
social security cards, and drivers' licences had a street value of
$800-million (all subsequent figures in US dollars). In Los Angeles, site
of the seizure, a simple fake ID went for $40 to $100. The most valuable,
however, is the I-94 Record of Entry and Departure with record of permanent
residence. It costs $3,000 and is used frequently by smugglers -- of human
cargo.

Last December, Canadian and U.S. authorities broke up a human smuggling
ring along the St. Lawrence River, in which residents of China's Fujan
province paid $40,000 each to get into the United States. Often, it is
actually future employers who are paying the travel costs for "willing"
slave labour -- they come over not realizing how long it will take to pay
off their benefactors.

As long as there's money to be made, no innovation in technology or
safeguarding made by the police will prevent the booming business in forged
travel documents. Just take a look at www.global-money.com. Advertised in
the back of The Economist, these "global money consultants" offer genuine
investigative reporter press cards ("as a journalist, show business is
'your business': gain access to studios, meet the stars, and relate to them
completely on equal terms") for $300; noble titles for $80-$160; and
diplomatic passports for the British West Indies for $499. And if you're
looking for that second passport from a stable country, just send in a
consultancy fee of $400 and you can get the process rolling.

Jane L. Thompson
National Post, March 20, 1999

The cash cow for the world's criminal element may very well be the
passport. With Interpol citing a dramatic increase in the number of
reported false travel documents (up 45% from 1995 to 1996), travellers are
being warned to be even more careful with their identity paperwork. While
travellers' cheques can always be replaced, a stolen passport could leave
you with a bad credit rating or a rap sheet listing a myriad of crimes you
didn't commit.

According to Corporal Fred Bowen of the RCMP's Immigration and Passport
Anti-smuggling Unit, Canada and the United States have among the most
desirable passports, although demand is high for any stable Western country
with a decent immigration policy.

Depending on the point of origin, a visa may be needed as well as a
passport. Consequently, forged visas and landed immigrant status and
citizenship cards vary in price depending upon the quality and the
desperation of the customer.

Canadian passports with a Caucasian photo and name can be found for $150 to
$250. For a name with an ethnic origin, such as Tamil, the price jumps to
roughly $7,000 to $8,000.

Now, if the person in the photo actually passes as a twin for the buyer,
that could fetch up to $10,000 on the street. The higher fee is for the
ease of the passport -- no photo needs to be glued on, and it looks
authentic (except for the fact, obviously, that it isn't you). If you're
paying someone to put in an Asian name and photo, with supporting ID and
birth certificate, you'll have to shell out $70,000.

Not surprisingly, since many of the people in need of forged documents have
no idea how their country of choice works, they can be suckered into paying
for things that don't seem outrageous to them, things that don't actually
exist, such as "Citizen of Ontario" or "Citizen of Canada" cards. Even
airline ticket staff, who are trained to look for these sorts of details,
may not be aware of a scam. Nervy travellers have even been known to use
passports for fictitious countries.

According to the Austrian Embassy in Ottawa, prices for faux Austrian
documents can range from $1,200 to $12,000. One of the reasons Austria is
so attractive is its proximity to less-privileged economies, where income
levels can be 10 times lower. Prosperity is just a day's travel by car for
the people living in these poorer nations. There's more demand for
fraudulent visas than passports, however, as Austrian passport requirements
easily single out fraudulent ones. For example, if the bearer has poor
German, officials will become immediately suspicious. After all,
citizenship, which comes with a passport, is achieved only after living in
Austria for six to 10 years. If someone hasn't grasped German by then
they're in trouble.

Andy Cole, a chief immigration officer in London, England, says the price
of fraudulent documents varies according to what the forger thinks you can
afford. So the more impoverished you are, the better the discount. Ranging
>from 120 and 180 to several hundred pounds, scams often involve
blackmailing clients, and promising a document at an initial price that is
subsequently jacked up on receipt. They're then forced to pay more each
month, under the threat of bodily harm to them or their family if they
renege. This doesn't just happen in London but throughout the United
Kingdom and Europe.

As for the United States -- home of "give me your tired, your poor, your
huddled masses yearning to breathe free" propagandizing -- well, maybe, if
you have a decent forged document. More than passports, it's that elusive
green card that's in demand. In the late fall last year, the U.S.
Immigration and Naturalization Service made the largest fraudulent document
seizure in its history. The cache of resident alien cards (green cards),
social security cards, and drivers' licences had a street value of
$800-million (all subsequent figures in US dollars). In Los Angeles, site
of the seizure, a simple fake ID went for $40 to $100. The most valuable,
however, is the I-94 Record of Entry and Departure with record of permanent
residence. It costs $3,000 and is used frequently by smugglers -- of human
cargo.

Last December, Canadian and U.S. authorities broke up a human smuggling
ring along the St. Lawrence River, in which residents of China's Fujan
province paid $40,000 each to get into the United States. Often, it is
actually future employers who are paying the travel costs for "willing"
slave labour -- they come over not realizing how long it will take to pay
off their benefactors.

As long as there's money to be made, no innovation in technology or
safeguarding made by the police will prevent the booming business in forged
travel documents. Just take a look at www.global-money.com. Advertised in
the back of The Economist, these "global money consultants" offer genuine
investigative reporter press cards ("as a journalist, show business is
'your business': gain access to studios, meet the stars, and relate to them
completely on equal terms") for $300; noble titles for $80-$160; and
diplomatic passports for the British West Indies for $499. And if you're
looking for that second passport from a stable country, just send in a
consultancy fee of $400 and you can get the process rolling.

Melanie Orhant

Co-Director
Human Trafficking Program
Global Survival Network

P.O. Box 73214
Washington, DC 20009
T: 387-0028
F: 387-2590
Email: morhant@igc.org
www.globalsurvival.net


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