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Corruption runs deep in some EU nations when issuing passports

Corruption runs deep in some EU nations when issuing passports

News reports out of The Netherlands and Cyprus, both members of the European Union, document systemic passport fraud.

News publisher Al Jazeera, claims that the former president of the Cyprus Parliament, a former member of parliament and two others have been charged by police with conspiring to illegally sell a Cypriot passport.

Meanwhile, DutchNews, also is reporting on passport corruption charges lodged by a government privacy watchdog.

This is a reminder that while the dark web is a real danger, document fraud remains a potent challenge in the real world, too.

Al Jazeera’s coverage is a continuation of its investigation into document corruption first published in October 2020.

Citing unnamed sources, the publisher says the four people suspected were approached by reporters posing as intermediaries for a fictional convicted Chinese criminal for a passport.

Like other nations, the Cyprus government can elect to give passports to foreigners who make certain investments in the nation. In this case, according to Al Jazeera, the government wanted a minimum contribution of €2.15 million (US$2.18 million) into the Cyprus Investment Programme.

The four people accused of being willing to sell a passport reportedly were told that the fictitious Chinese national had been convicted of a crime, making the person ineligible for the program.

With a Cyprus passport, the holder can live anywhere in the E.U. and have visa-free access to more than 170 nations, according to the news outlet.

The problem is widespread in the government. A little more than half of the 7,000 outsiders granted citizenship between 2007 and 2020 received passports unlawfully.

Passport fraudsters in The Netherlands reportedly are being prosecuted and anti-fraud steps updated after accusations of large-scale misuse of passports.

A government watchdog group, Rijksdienst voor Identiteitsgegevens, reportedly found that bureaucrats in 17 large cities between 2010 and 2019 ignored proper procedures in issuing biometric passports. More than a quarter were improperly processed, according to DutchNews.

The watchdog group looked at passport operations more generally and found that of 2.4 million document proceedings – out of 8.7 million – were handled entirely by just one man. Not only is that an invitation by itself, but Dutch law also forbids the same person from handling all aspects of issuing passports.

Almost 200,000 passport photos that were approved by bureaucrats had previously been rejected by machine vision algorithms.

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