Brian Sims

Trio convicted for supplying fraudulent passports to criminals

THREE MEN who played major roles in supplying fraudulent passports to some of the most serious organised criminals have been convicted. Following a trial at Reading Crown Court, Christopher Zietek (aged 67, of Sydenham in South East London) and Alan Thompson (aged 72, of Sutton in Surrey) have been found guilty of being involved in a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, conspiracy to make fraudulent passports and Latvian ID documents and money laundering.

Zietek, along with Anthony Beard, aged 61, of Lewisham in London, acted as ringleaders of the criminal operation. Beard pleaded guilty to conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and conspiracy to fraudulent documents on 3 January 2023 prior to the trial.

The defendants were involved in a criminal enterprise which provided fraudulent UK passports and ID documents to criminals trying to evade justice, enabling them to cross borders and conduct illegal business undetected. The alleged crimes of those they assisted ranged from drug trafficking to murder.

The group specialised in supplying fraudulently-obtained genuine passports – documents which are issued authentically, but have been applied for using false information. The result is a seemingly legitimate document, making fraudulently-obtained genuine passports highly sought after by criminals worldwide.

Zietek played a leading role in the operation by exploiting his criminal connections to obtain clients, while Beard was heavily involved in the processing of fraudulently-obtained genuine passports.

Thompson worked closely with Zietek, doing everything from chauffeuring him to criminal meetings to performing necessary tasks for the brokering of fraudulently-obtained genuine passports.

The illegal enterprise would source individuals who were willing to sell their personal details for passport applications and would then pay someone else to countersign the fraudulent application. The fraudulently-obtained genuine passports were then supplied to their criminal clients.

The group later became involved in providing criminals with international documentation in the form of forged Latvian passports.

Close working with the NCA

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) worked closely with the National Crime Agency (NCA) prior to charging the case, right through to conviction following a thorough investigation by NCA officers. The NCA also collaborated with His Majesty’s Passport Office to identify the applications made by the group.

It was clear from the evidence collected in this case that the defendants knew they were assisting criminals to evade justice.

Clients of theirs included Jordan Owen, who was arrested in Portugal in December 2019 before the fraudulently-obtained genuine passport could be handed over to him. He was later jailed for 23 years for murder. Another was Michael Moogan, one of the UK’s most wanted fugitives who was on the run for eight years before being arrested in Dubai in April 2021 for conspiring to import Class A drugs.

Giorgina Venturella, specialist prosecutor for the CPS, said: “The service provided by the defendants in this organised crime group enabled serious criminals, including drugs and firearms traffickers and murderers, to go on the run as fugitives such that they could evade detection and conduct criminal business internationally under false identities.”

Venturella added: “Following collaboration with the NCA, the CPS was able to build a strong case resulting in their conviction, in turn disrupting a major organised crime network and helping to dismantle their illegal operation.”

Craig Turner, deputy director at the NCA, commented: “This organised crime group supplied fraudulent passports that enabled some of the UK’s most serious and dangerous criminals to operate internationally under false identities and pose a sustained threat to the public.”

Turner continued: “This investigation demonstrates the NCA’s unique role in tackling the most serious and complex crime threats facing the UK. We’ve identified a chronic ‘under the radar’ conspiracy that enabled drugs and firearms traffickers, murderers and fugitives to evade justice. We’ve worked across borders to dismantle this operation and the bring the masterminds to account.”

Zietek and Thompson appeared on trial at Reading Crown Court alongside four other co-defendants who were acquitted by a jury.

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