July 4th, 2007 05:53 EST
Operation Maxim Arrests IN The U.K.
Detectives from the Economic and Specialist Crime Command's Operation Maxim have arrested five men after uncovering the single largest haul of fake passports from a counterfeit passport factory.
In an intelligence-led operation, detectives raided the two-bedroom flat in Poplar Grove, Colney Hatch, London N11 yesterday afternoon. When police officers entered the property a counterfeit driving licence was being printed at the time from a printer in the back bedroom. Three Eastern European men, one Kosovan and two Bulgarian, were arrested at the address for conspiracy to manufacture identity documents and remain in custody at a North London police station.
At the property officers discovered two wardrobes, both containing and one of them full with over 1800 counterfeit passports, the largest amount of completed passports the team have uncovered which were ready to be dispatched. These included 200 fake UK passports, which are often considered by counterfeiters to be too ambitious to convincingly attempt. There was also associated counterfeit paraphernalia including between 3,000 and 4,000 fake passport laminates of various denominations, between 1,000 and 2,000 counterfeit bio-data pages, which are the pages filled with personal details in a passport and 1,000 blank cards. Blank cards are commonly used by counterfeiters to produce fake UK or foreign driving licences.
Equipment found at the property included printers, scanners, two computers and various fake immigration stamps. Within the haul, detectives seized from the property over 1800 counterfeit passports comprising of 212 x British, 562 x Finnish, 428 x Portuguese and 62 x Korean. They also seized a quantity of counterfeit passports from Latvia, Slovenia, Albania, Denmark, Greece, Italy, Belgium and France.
Following the search, two further men were also arrested. An Albanian man was arrested in Grantham Road, Goodmayes, Essex and the other was a Bulgarian man arrested at a property in Ballards Lane in Finchley. Both remain in custody.
Detective Inspector Nick Downing, from the Met's Economic and Specialist Crime Command, said:
"This is the largest amount of counterfeit passports that Operation Maxim and the MPS have ever had and potentially the largest within the UK. The estimated street value of this seizure is well over a million pounds."
"Our activity has not only disrupted a well established and organised criminal network, but as a result it will make London safer. We will continue to target and disrupt organised crime networks across the capital seeking to use false documents to facilitate their criminal enterprise. We do this by working closely with our partners from Border and Immigration Agency and Identity Passport Service."
"These counterfeit passports have the potential to be sold on to anyone wanting to carry out criminal activity or illegally enter the UK. They are sold on recklessly by those producing them without any regard to who they might be or why they might wish to avoid detection. As part of the Economic and Specialist Crime Command, we will use the powers of the Proceeds of Crime Act to recover their assets and maximise this disruption."