Revealed: How Fake Passports Allow ISIS Members to Enter Europe and US | Islamic State

A thriving online industry specializing in fake passports with official visas and travel stamps is offering people with ties to the Islamic State the opportunity to leave Syria and travel onward to the UK, EU, Canada and US, according to a a Guardian investigation.

One such network, run by an Uzbek with extremist ties living in Turkey, now sells high-quality fake passports for up to $15,000 (£11,132) purportedly from different countries. In at least 10 cases the Guardian is aware of, people who have illegally crossed the Syrian border into Turkey have used his products to depart through Istanbul airport.

Vendors claim the EU is the most popular destination, but say that in at least two cases, people were able to travel from Istanbul to Mexico using fake Russian passports and illegally cross the border into the US from there. Niger and Mauritania are also popular destinations, as are Ukraine and Afghanistan.

Uzbek business is doing so well that he recently opened a new channel on the encrypted messaging app Telegram with the official sounding name “Istanbul Global Consulting”. The growing trade suggests that dangerous extremists could slip under the radar of security agencies around the world, escape justice for past crimes and may be able to continue terrorist activities in countries other than Syria.

“I don’t ask which group someone belongs to. I’m willing to work with anyone,” the Uzbek said in a chat message with the Guardian, posing as an interested customer. “It’s not my job to see who’s bad and who’s not. The security services have to deal with it.”

Western security officials warned in 2015 that IS had managed to obtain significant equipment, such as blank passport books and printers to produce Syrian and Iraqi passports, which it used to disguise agents among the more than 1 million people who fled to Syria during the height of the war. Europe had fled refugee crisis. ISIS claimed several attacks across the continent shortly afterwards, including the November 2015 attack on the Bataclan Theater in Paris and the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing.

Since then, European border agencies have invested in technology and staff training to better identify false passports. In 2020, Tajikistan completely revamped its consular staff in Istanbul and document system in an effort to eradicate the use of false Tajik passports.

But in response, fake passport sellers have also stepped up their game by using a wider variety of nationalities for potential customers.

The Uzbek sent several videos of his wares, including fresh new French, Belgian, Bulgarian and Russian passports that appear to have authentic security watermarks and holograms.

Fake Passports Delivered By Uzbek Vendor Allowing ISIS Members To Enter Europe And US - Video
Fake Passports Delivered By Uzbek Vendor Allowing ISIS Members To Enter Europe And US – Video

When placed under a black light, two Russian passports contain UV-sensitive material designed to stop passport forgery, and a Belgian passport placed on a scanner similar to the one used at airports appears to read correctly, with the holder information appears on the monitor.

Document sellers say it’s impossible to falsify a working biometric chip, but at many border crossings, officials checking passports simply ignore the non-functioning passports and wave the passport holder over.

“There is a certain seller in Turkey who provides IS members with a very high standard [ie, well forged] documents,” using interlocutors who speak Russian, Arabic and other languages ​​to serve various customers, a source at the US Department of Homeland Security said.

“We are aware of IS members using these fake passports to cross into Europe, and European security is failing to arrest them all.”

While the document sellers’ most popular service is providing documents to foreign fighters in Syria linked to IS and other armed groups to travel to Europe, the group has also identified new areas to expand.

In a Telegram chat for people in al-Hawl, a camp in northeastern Syria that is home to about 60,000 women and children with links to IS, one of the Uzbek online marketers told a foreign woman who is being held in another camp. nearby, posted: “If you need fake documents from Russia, Central Asia, Turkey, Europe, DM me.”

Afghanistan’s fall to the Taliban had also created a new customer base of Afghan refugees in Turkey, the Uzbek said. While his services are too expensive for most displaced Afghans, he says his clients use the fake passports to board flights to Western countries and then apply for asylum once they land.

While low-ranking IS fighters usually barely have the money to buy one passport, high-ranking members who want to completely disappear from the grid usually buy multiple documents from different countries, and use them to regularly move around, change passports for each new flight or transfer. , said a Russian passport seller.

A Russian citizen who fought for IS until 2015 said: “I only had a few hundred dollars when I came from Syria, so I bought the cheapest passport – a really poor quality Tajik passport. It didn’t work and I was arrested at Istanbul airport.

“Then my family collected enough money at home to buy a better quality copy. So I got a real Russian passport, but with my photo on it, and was able to come to Ukraine with it. It’s a really good one – I was once stopped by the police in Ukraine and they took it but returned it to me a week later saying everything is fine. Unfortunately this passport is now expiring so I am currently trying to get money to buy a new passport.”

To make sure that a person disappears completely, the Uzbek seller can even offer a Turkish death certificate for $500 that can be sent to the consulate of their home country. “Unless you Abu Bakr Baghdadi . are [The IS leader, killed in 2019] no one would go to the morgue to see if you were really dead. They would just accept that document and enter it into the system,” he said.

There are different passport options, depending on the ethnicity of the customers, the languages ​​they speak, where they want to go and how much they have to spend. The cheapest documents to get to Europe are passports from Russia, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, which cost about $5,000, or $6,000 as part of a Schengen visa package. Other popular and slightly more expensive options are Ukrainian and Moldovan papers, which allow visa-free travel to the EU.

The most expensive option is an EU passport, which refunds a customer $8,000, usually requested by Westerners and Arabs who speak a little French and can pass for French or Belgian. Usually, an EU citizen arrives in Turkey with his or her own passport, sells it to the Uzbek and his colleagues for around €2,500, after which the passport photo is changed to that of a customer. The original owner of the passport then states that it has been lost and requests a replacement passport from his or her consulate in Istanbul.

The passports are printed in their country of origin and taken to the country where the customer is waiting, where they receive official border stamps, helping to reinforce the legitimacy of the document.

“The passport itself costs relatively nothing. What does cost are the stamps,” said the Russian seller. “Most of the money goes to stamp bribes.”

“In the past, the quality of passports on the market was poor, so there were a limited number of countries that people could travel to from Syria,” he said. “Now those passports are of such good quality that if you have enough money you could go absolutely anywhere.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.