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Passport fraud a serious crime that has victims

MEDIA RELEASE 26 April 2006

Passport fraud a serious crime that has victims

Criminals thinking of attempting passport fraud need to know that they face a very high probability of being caught and may suffer severe penalties.

The Department of Internal Affairs is determined to identify fraudulent passport applications, whether older or more recent. The recent high profile case of Peter Fulcher appearing in Court on passport offences highlights this situation.

David Philp, Passports Manager, says passport fraud is a serious crime that impacts on the victims. Recent court cases have highlighted situations where people have obtained false passports by using the identity of deceased persons. “We take the abuse of the identities of dead people seriously. It often involves the rekindling of grief and upset for families of the dead person whose identity is misused.” (see statement below from a victim of passport fraud)

“While all new passport applications since 2003 have been checked against life event records, there are older cases that we have detected where people have maliciously used a dead person’s identity to obtain a false passport. When we detect such activity through our audits, no matter how long ago the alleged offence took place, we intend to refer all cases to the Police for prosecution.

“And if convicted of offences committed since 2002, people face penalties of up to ten years imprisonment and/or a fine of $250,000 under passport legislation passed in that year,” says David Philp.

The Department says that new systems and procedures such as the check against death records, a shorter term of passport validity and the introduction of an e-Passport will make it extremely difficult even for determined criminals to obtain a New Zealand passport.

In the unlikely event they were successful, the chances of detection when the passport is used, or in an audit (such as the one that detected a false passport application by Peter Fulcher in 1998) is very, very high.

New Zealanders are rightly proud of the status of their passport, which is regarded as one of the best in the world, providing visa free access to many countries.

The Department is totally committed to preserving the integrity of the New Zealand passport. Our message to anyone thinking of committing this sort of fraud is: “It’s not worth the risk – don’t try it you will be caught.”

ENDS

Statement from a victim of a false passport application:

"The pain we have suffered was strange after all these years. I felt an intrusion into our private lives as well as old wounds reopened. It was extremely upsetting to learn that our baby brother's identity was callously stolen.”

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