Friday 07 October 2022

Flouting of passport rules leading to fraud ‘systemic’, study finds


Rules surrounding the issuing of new passports have been flouted for years, promoting corruption and criminal use, a probe into proceedings by the Rijksdienst voor Identiteitsgegevens (RvIG) has found.

The RvIG, a government body which monitors the safe use of personal data, discovered that between 2010 and 2019, 17 big municipalities did not follow the correct procedures for issiung passports in over 25% of cases. The investigation is ongoing.

In a letter to MPs last week, junior digitalisation minister Alexandra van Huffelen said ‘a number of corrupt civil servants’ are now being prosecuted and preventive measures are being put in place.

Dozens of criminals are using legally issued passports with photos that do not correspond with the name of the bearer, the junior minister said. That makes it easier for criminals to travel and stay under the police radar.

A civil servant in The Hague recently admitted falsifying passports for over 20 criminals over the past few years, including gang leader Ridouan Taghi who was found in possession of a fake but legally issued passport when he was arrested in Dubai in 2019. The civil servant in question handled both the request and the issuing of the passport, which is against the rules.

The problem is systemic, the probe showed. Of the 8.7 million passport proceedings checked by the RvIG, 2.4 million were handled entirely by one civil servant, particularly in municipalities of fewer than 100,000 people.

In 180,000 cases, passport photos that had been rejected with monitoring equipment were used nevertheless, while 18,000 passports had been issued ignoring the stipulated waiting time and outside office hours, which makes detection difficult.

Municipalities’ files were also found to contain incorrect data for requesting and activating travel documents. The RvIG is still investigating how widespread this problem is.

Among the measures proposed by Van Huffelen are information programmes, put in controls such as certification for staff who handle sensitive personal data and an integrity check in the shape of a compulsory certificate of conduct.

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