Police arrest men behind major passport forging ring
Thai police struck a major blow against human trafficking and transnational crime last week, smashing an international passport forging ring based in the outskirts of Bangkok and arresting an Iranian and six Pakistanis who supplied fake passports and other documents to global people smuggling syndicates and gangs.
Document forging is an essential component of transnational criminal organizations engaged in people smuggling and human trafficking, enabling traffickers to move illegal migrants and modern-day slaves across borders. Beefing up police units and investigations into counterfeiting is one element in the comprehensive campaign against human trafficking launched by the government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.
Interpol includes document forging under its category of counterfeiting, which it estimates costs the global economy $500 billion a year in losses. Thailand is one of many countries battling document-forging gangs, and law enforcement agencies have been making significant strides in arresting forgers. Police found dozens of phony passports in the apartment of one suspect arrested for alleged involvement in the Erawan Shrine bombing in Bangkok last year, demonstrating that forging is linked to other more violent crimes.
Police had been trying for several years to track down the shadowy chief suspect arrested last week. Hamid Reza Jaffary, the 48-year-old Iranian police believe led the gang, was known in the criminal underworld as “The Doctor”. Although he had been living in Thailand for over 20 years, he limited his direct contact to very few people in the organization, preferring to work through intermediaries to shield his identity and maintain secrecy.
General Natthorn Phrosunthorn of the Immigration Police told a press conference that the only thing known about him was that he was a bald Iranian in his 40s and that is the reason the investigation took so many years. Officials from the embassies of the United Kingdom, France, New Zealand and Australia attended the press conference.
Police found forgery tools including 18 passport pattern screen blocks, and 173 fake passports, mostly European, ready for sale in Jaffary’s apartment. Jaffary tried presenting a fake Brazilian passport to police as his identification. The police subsequently arrested his five Pakistani male accomplices who allegedly helped him contact customers.
Although his name was unknown, Natthorn said that Jaffary is wanted by law enforcement authorities in several countries. Thailand would consult and work with law enforcement in those countries to identify and track down more suspects and accomplices as the syndicate is transnational.
Police said that Jaffary was supplying forged passports to accomplices mainly funneling South Asians and Middle Easterners to Europe and Australia. They added, however, that fake passports were supplied to smugglers moving people to just about every location.