HUNDREDS of migrants are feared to have slipped into Britain using “brilliantly” faked passports made by a huge forgery ring, The Sun reports.
The massive criminal network flooded Europe with forged papers before being dismantled by cops in Greece and the Czech Republic last week, Europol chiefs revealed yesterday.
Its members included master forgers from Bangladesh and Sudan, who used a single printing machine to create thousands of “very sophisticated” ID papers sold on to migrants at vast cost.
Sources told The Sun investigators had also recovered a string of fake UK passports made by the gang from INSIDE Britain, confirming migrants had slipped through our soft borders unnoticed.
It raises fears Islamic terror groups have also taken advantage of the ring’s prolific work. The network is believed to be one of the biggest forgery operations smashed in recent years.
One source revealed: “This gang had been operating for at least two years and created thousands of fake passports. “Some of the British fakes were found in the UK and there is little doubt British passports were the ones most in demand.
“They were very sophisticated forgeries, brilliantly executed. “It’s unclear how many migrants reached Britain illegally using these papers, but hundreds is far from an exaggeration.
“They were used both to enter the UK and to remain there illegally.” A total of 19 people were held in raids in Greece and the Czech Republic on May 25. They included Bangladeshis, Sudanese, Pakistanis and Syrians.
No British nationals were arrested. The network saw two separate criminal gangs join forces – making it one of the first examples of networks merging to increase their dirty profits.
Last month Europol warned of the growing trend of “mergers” between crime groups to take advantage of the migrant crisis. One network of Bangladeshis and one of Sudanese criminals worked together at a makeshift forging factory in Athens to create the papers before sending them on to another gang in the Czech Republic.
The gangs used courier firms to dispatch their goods, making them difficult to trace. Investigators managed to discover that in the last year alone the Bangladeshi group sent 126 packages of travel documents, while the Sudanese sent 431.
The documents were then sold on for anything from £76 to £2,390 a piece all around the world. Such was the gang’s success that its documents were found by cops in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
But by far the most valuable documents made were British passports – seen clearly in a picture of a haul of documents recovered from the Athens operation. Investigations are now ongoing to establish the group’s links with other criminal groups. The probe involved 19 EU states and the US authorities.
Europol’s British Director, Rob Wainwright, said: “In the last two years we have seen criminal gangs increasingly investing more in the production of fake documents to support a growing criminal market associated with the migrant crisis.
“Document fraud is now a highly important enabler of organised crime operated by groups involved in stealing or producing counterfeit passports and other travel documents.
“This operation shows our shared determination in Europe to investigate and disrupt those criminals involved in this illegal activity.”