Five charged in UK over fake passport scam

Alleged customers of passport gang include suspected drugs dealer arrested in Dubai

Five people have been charged in the UK over an alleged scheme to sell fraudulent passports to some of the country’s most notorious criminals.

The five were among 24 people arrested during dawn raids last month targeting a gang that was said to have provided hundreds of passports to drug and gun traffickers, and fugitives from justice.

The alleged customers of the gang included Michael Moogan, a suspected drugs dealer arrested in Dubai in May after eight years on the run, said the National Crime Agency after the raids.

He was identified as a customer at a Dutch cafe raided in 2013 when police discovered that it was being used as a front for European criminals to organise illicit deals and arrange gangland hits.

The passport gang was suspected of using false personal details to apply to the UK authorities for passports that allowed criminals to evade scrutiny at the borders.

The five, aged between 38 and 72, were freed on bail and will appear in court next month. They live in London and the southern English county of Surrey.

They face charges of perverting the course of justice, money laundering, and conspiracy to make a false instrument.

A sixth man appeared in court last month on the same charges. Christopher McCormack, 66, who splits his time between Spain, the UK and Ireland, is accused of acting as a broker between criminals and the passport suppliers.

The National Crime Agency, which ran the operation, said Operation Strey was one of its most significant investigations of recent times. It worked with Dutch police and the UK’s passport office on the case.

Intelligence gathered on the passports used by fugitives led to numerous arrests across Europe, and in Dubai, Australia, Thailand and Brazil.

Suspected clients of the group include Jamie Acourt – who achieved notoriety as one of the suspects for the racist murder of a black teenager in south-east London in 1993. He was arrested in Spain in 2018 and later jailed for nine years for drugs offences.

Jacque Beer of the NCA said: “Since the operation which saw the arrests take place, we have worked patiently and diligently to build up evidence which has now led to these charges being authorised.

“We remain determined to disrupt and dismantle organised crime networks involved in this sort of activity.”

Updated: November 16th 2021, 9:41 AM