Iranian 'passport doctor' arrested

Iranian 'passport doctor' arrested

Police have broken up one of the country’s biggest passport counterfeiting operations, which produced top-quality fake travel documents difficult for authorities to detect.

Immigration police and soldiers were tracking a shadowy figure known only as "The Doctor" for years with signs pointing to him in smaller arrests since 2013. The only information they had was that he was believed to be an Iranian in his 40s.

Lawmen said they finally got their man on Monday when they raided a house in Muang district of Chachoengsao and found a foreigner with a Brazilian passport identifying him as Eliseu Moraes.

Police said that, after questioning, the man admitted the passport was fake and his real name was Hamid Reza Jafary, 48, of Iran.

Nathathorn Prousoontorn, the Immigration Bureau commissioner, said in a press briefing on Tuesday that Mr Jafary is "The Doctor" sought out by those looking for bogus travel books. He has lived in Thailand more than 25 years and allegedly used the country as a base to produce fakes for clients around the world, charging 50,000-80,000 baht each, depending on quality, he added.

Mr Jafary is wanted by security officials in several countries, including Thailand, Britain, France, New Zealand and Australia.

Immigration police worked closely with the Armed Forces Security Centre of the Royal Thai Armed Forces Headquarters to investigate the gang, Pol Lt Gen Nathathorn said.

He said a detailed probe found the gang made bogus passports and supplied them to a network to be sold mostly to people from Middle Eastern countries to be used to travel to Europe and Australia.

Five other alleged gang members later were arrested, all of them Pakistanis. They were identified as Cheeman Ahsan Javed, Amer Buit, Rahim Khan Pathan, Gohar Zaman and Muhammad Tariq. All five are alleged to be middlemen between "The Doctor" and buyers, according to Pol Lt Gen Nathathorn.

An embassy representative uses a loupe to study details of the “AAA Grade” passports recovered in Monday’s raid. (Photo by Apichart Jinakul)

Found in the house were 34 printers for passport book covers, paper to make pages, 18 watermark blocks, a visa stamp of the immigration office in Nong Khai, fake Thai visas and 173 bogus passports. Police said it was one of the largest operations found in years.

Customers contacted the forgers over the internet with most wanting European documents because of their credibility. After money was transferred, the fake passport would be sent by international courier.

Most customers were in the Middle East, among them Iranians, Syrians and Iraqis, he said, adding the gang also was linked to human traffickers,

The printers were imported from China and the gang could produce high-quality passports difficult to detect, Pol Lt Gen Natthathorn said, calling them "AAA grade" or "mirror grade."

Some of the fake travel documents seized in the raid. (Photo by Apichart Jinakul)

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