Authorities investigate over 1000 Australian passport fraud cases

MORE than 1000 suspected Australian passport fraud cases have been investigated in the past three years and about 100 fake passports have been seized.

And tens of thousands more Australian travel documents are being reported lost or stolen every year.

The revelations come as the Government wrestles with the fate of scores of Australian passport holders fighting with terror groups.

In one of the most concerning cases a Canberra court was told in July last year a former Australian Federal Police counterterrorism member was found to have hidden two foreign passports and a Russian bride with an apparently forged passport from his AFP bosses.

The former Russian soldier and policeman came to Australia in 1991 and worked with the AFP for a decade before his ex-girlfriend accused him of stalking her and investigations revealed he had allegedly used protected AFP information to track her new partner.

Documents released to the Herald Sun by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade reveal 65 Australian passports suspected of being forged or tampered with were detected in the past three financial years.

Another 24 passports were used by people attempting to impersonate the identity in a genuine passport holder.

And the dodgy or doctored passports being detected could be just the tip of the iceberg with 114,000 Australian passports — or one in 100 issued — reported lost or stolen in the past three years; more than 38,000 in the past year alone, including 240 disappearing in the mail after being issued.

Faked or stolen Australian passports have been linked to espionage, people smuggling, drug trafficking, fraud and illegal immigration.

Forged or tampered passports are commonly used in cross-border crimes, with international gangs going to extreme lengths to illegally create or obtain Australian passports.

The AFP said it had prosecuted 23 people with 30 offences related to Australian and foreign passports since July 1, 2011 but eight months after the Herald Sun’s request could point to only one example.

John Windschuttle, 66, pleaded guilty in Darwin Magistrates Court to using a birth certificate he had stolen many years earlier to fraudulently obtain four Australian passports in the name of Peter Hartley.

The Herald Sun has been told other passport frauds include substitutions of photos or the entire identity pages, altered signatures, or changes to birth dates, gender details or passport expiry dates.

A DFAT spokesman said the vast majority of passport cases it investigates relate to application fraud, such as forging a parent’s signature on a child’s passport or fraudulently witnessing a signature on a passport application.

He said cases were then referred to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions and referred the Herald Sun to the AFP for more information on its passport related prosecutions.

The figures do not include passports seized by foreign authorities.


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