Two foreign nationals were jailed last Friday for four years for running the largest ever passport forgery factory in the UK.
Mandip Sharma from India and Brando Sibayan from the Philippines pleaded guilty at Leicester Crown Court to possession of equipment for making false identity documents.
The pair were caught after officers from the UK Border Agency’s East Midlands office paid a routine visit to question Sibayan, aged 38, a suspected illegal immigrant, on 23 January at his home in Catherine Street, Leicester.
Officers found eight boxes of laminated documents, passport covers and a laminating machine. One of the documents led officers to a house in Westbourne Street, Belgrave, Leicester.
Officers brought in support from a joint team of police and immigration officers set up to tackle crime committed by foreign nationals in Leicestershire.
The team raided the Westbourne Street property later the same day and discovered 4,000 counterfeit passports for several European Union countries including the United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain.
Guillotine machines, forgery stamps, driving licences, national insurance cards and other forms of identification were also found at the property, where an Indian national, Mr Mandip Sharma, aged 34, was caught at the house.
The find was confirmed as the largest ever passport factory in the United Kingdom according to officers from the UK Border Agency’s National Documentation Fraud Unit who provided strong support to the investigation.
Sharma and Sibayan were arrested and remanded into custody. They appeared at Leicester Crown Court this morning (Thursday 7 May). Both pleaded guilty and both were sentenced to four years imprisonment.
The UK Border Agency will seek to deport both individuals back to their home countries when they have served their prison sentences.
Andy Radcliffe, from the UK Border Agency’s foreign national crime team in Leicestershire, said:
“We expect foreign nationals to play by the rules or we will take swift action. This case sends out a clear message that we will not hesitate to prosecute and deport those causing harm to communities.
“Organised criminals provide forged passports to help illegal immigrants get jobs in the black economy or to obtain public services.
“But identity cards for foreign nationals will prevent this sort of abuse in the future by locking individuals down to one identity through their facial image and fingerprints.”
Detective Chief Inspector Donna Thomson, who heads the Operation Rebuttal team for Leicestershire Constabulary, said:
“This operation demonstrates our commitment to tackle criminality involving foreign nationals.
“Organised criminals stand to make a lot of money from the trade of fake documents. We are committed to working with the UK Border Agency to continue targeting these individuals.
“Today’s sentence shows anyone who is thinking of committing this type of crime they will be brought before the courts and dealt with severely.”
A spokesman for the Identity and Passport Service said:
“The UK passport remains one of the most secure documents in the world. It contains a range of security measures designed to prevent and readily detect fraud and tampering.
“The introduction of biometrics into passports has further strengthened the integrity of the document.”