Four arrested after criminals found with fake passports
GARDAI have now made four arrests in connection with an investigation into passport fraud.
Officers are satisfied that two 'irregular' passports, which had been processed and issued officially, ended up in the possession of criminals.
They believe the passports were to be used in a major crime that was due to be carried out in the coming weeks.
Three men and a woman, including two officials from the Passport Office, have been questioned by gardai but all have been released without charge.
A file will now be prepared for the DPP, who will determine if criminal charges should be brought.
The investigation was launched initially by the Department of Foreign Affairs in May when internal checks established that there had been 'irregularities' in two passports that had been issued officially.
The passports were genuine but included information that was false and had been issued to people who should not have been in possession of them.
After preliminary inquiries by the department, it was decided to alert gardai. Officers from the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation were called in early last month.
As a result of the joint investigation, gardai carried out a search on the Dublin-Meath border more than a week ago and detained two suspected criminals for questioning.
Follow-up inquiries led to the arrest of a 30-year-old male employee of the Passport Office at his home in Skerries, shortly after 7am on Tuesday. He was questioned throughout the day at Balbriggan garda station.
On Tuesday afternoon, gardai detained a 30-year-old female employee of the Passport Office and she was held overnight at Ballymun station before being released yesterday afternoon.
Gardai told the Irish Independent last night that their inquiries into the fraud at the moment were confined to two passports but they were pursuing several lines of inquiry to determine if it was more extensive.
Officers are satisfied that the two passports were not issued to members of any dissident terrorist group or to known figures in organised crime gangs here. But they believe the documentation was to have been used to facilitate serious crime.
Gardai are also trying to establish if money was offered by the criminals for the passports.
Tanaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Gilmore said no Irish citizen was at risk as a result of the incident.
He said the issue of passport fraud was taken very seriously by the Passport Office and in the last number of years measures had been strengthened to identify and prevent potential fraud.
One of those measures was designed to ensure that one official could not complete the processing of a passport from start to finish without cross-checks by another official.
Mr Gilmore disclosed that searches had been carried out at the Passport Office and at other locations.
It is expected that a review of the existing measures will be carried out.