‘Significant, sophisticated’ fraud threat to Irish passport

Charlie Flanagan warned of need for urgent changes in passport application system

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan has been  urged to invest in the latest anti-fraud technology and techniques to protect the “integrity and international standing of the Irish passport”. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan has been urged to invest in the latest anti-fraud technology and techniques to protect the “integrity and international standing of the Irish passport”. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

The Department of Foreign Affairs is concerned about the “significant and increasingly sophisticated” threat of passport fraud.

In briefing notes, the Minister is warned of the need for urgent changes in the passport application system.

The department says the current paper-based system is inadequate and fails to deal with increased demand.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan is urged to invest in the latest anti-fraud technology and techniques to protect the “integrity and international standing of the Irish passport”.

A fraud section has been established and a series of investigations are under way into “fraudulently obtained genuine passports”.

Gardaí have also initiated an initiative called Operation Refresh, dedicated to these cases.

Blacked out

The notes are blacked out in the notes published online late last week, but The Irish Times has seen an unredacted version. The department says the Irish passport has become a “preferred device for money-laundering and other criminal activities”.

The number of passports issued has risen from 388,000 in 2000 to 670,000 in 2015, and it is projected that in excess of 730,000 passports will be produced this year.

The notes say the demand is currently running approximately 15 per cent ahead of the same period last year. This is the largest increase in 10 years, with the exception of 2011.

Feedback

The department says their feedback suggests Irish voices are welcome and could be influential in what will be a close campaign.

According to the notes there are 601,917 people born on the island of Ireland resident in Britain, while the British embassy has estimated that approximately 120,000 British citizens living in Ireland will be eligible to vote.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is to travel to the United Kingdom this month to encourage voters to avoid a Brexit.

The notes say the Department of Foreign Affairs believes the UK’s membership of the EU is in our best interests, as well as in the best interests of the EU as a whole. It says there would be an adverse impact on both the British economy and the Irish economy if the UK leaves the EU.