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Home Breaking Two crime bosses have been convicted of supplying fraudulent passports that allowed murderers and drug traffickers to avoid prosecution in the UK

Two crime bosses have been convicted of supplying fraudulent passports that allowed murderers and drug traffickers to avoid prosecution in the UK

Anthony Beard, 61, and Christopher Zietek, 67, were apprehended after a National Crime Agency covert surveillance operation discovered they provided fraudulently obtained genuine passports (FOGs) to organised criminals over a five-year period.
Customers paid between £5,000 and £15,000 for the highly sought-after documents, which were legitimately issued but applied for with false information. They allowed them to operate abroad and continue committing crimes against the United Kingdom. Following joint efforts with UK police forces, many fugitives have been apprehended all over the world after the NCA discovered the false identities they were using. Glasgow murderers Jordan Owen and Christopher Hughes were among the recipients, as were Liverpool drug trafficker Michael Moogan, who was sentenced to 12 years in prison yesterday, Manchester fugitive David Walley, and suspected Scottish drug traffickers Barrie Gillespie, Jamie Stevenson, and James White. The NCA’s investigation, dubbed Operation Strey, began in 2017. It was carried out in collaboration with the Dutch National Police and HM Passport Office, and it was one of the most significant projects undertaken by the agency in recent times. Beard and Zietek’s criminal organisation preyed on vulnerable people, often with alcohol or drug problems, who were around the same age as their clients and had similar facial features. They were compensated for supplying expired passports, and their information was used to apply for new ones, but with photographs of the criminals. In addition, the OCG paid others to countersign passport applications. Beard, from Sydenham, London, was an expert in FOGs, and NCA agents believe he had been obtaining them for at least 20 years. He was involved in every aspect of organising and applying for the passports, including collecting application forms and planning the information that the applicant and counter-signatory would provide. Many of the forms bore his fingerprints, and the phone numbers he provided were for a number of ‘burner’ phones he used. Handwriting experts determined he completed the majority of the application forms, and a voice recognition expert determined Beard called HM Passport Office pretending to be the people named on the forms. Beard, who pleaded guilty to fraud charges, is also facing additional charges in connection with FOGs used by other criminals, including Jamie Acourt, Christy Kinahan, and firearms trafficker Richard Burdett. Zietek, formerly Christopher McCormack, was thought to be an enforcer for the Adams crime family in London, dividing his time between Sydenham, Ireland, and Spain. He acted as the FOG broker, using his criminal connections to obtain clients for the crime syndicate. The NCA obtained audio recordings of incriminating conversations with Beard and others about the application processes and their customers at Zietek’s home. Officers also observed meetings with identity donors or counter-signators, analysed massive amounts of mobile phone and cell site data, and sent undercover agents to deliver some of the passports.
Both were apprehended in October of 2021.
Charges were filed against them for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, conspiracy to make a false instrument with intent (passports and identification documents), and money laundering.
Beard entered a guilty plea on the first day of a nine-week trial at Reading Crown Court on 3 January 2023. Zietek was convicted yesterday. As the investigation’s impact began to make obtaining British FOGs more difficult, Zietek diversified into supplying false Latvian documentation to some criminals, including Christopher Hughes, who was wanted by Police Scotland. Zietek needed to travel to Portugal in December 2019 to hand over the Latvian documentation to Hughes in person, but he paid a woman he knew to do so instead. Conversation recordings show Zietek giving the woman advice on how to avoid detection at the airport and what to say if apprehended. Hughes’ Latvian passport was wrapped and placed in a Garmin Edge box to resemble a Christmas gift. Before the flight left the UK, NCA officers secretly searched the courier’s luggage after she checked it in. A DNA profile extracted from the passport matched Zietek. Hughes was given the passport at a hotel in Portugal before returning to the UK an hour later. Alan Thompson, 72, of Sutton, Surrey, was also found guilty as a member of the crime group. He worked for Zietek, driving him to criminal meetings and performing necessary tasks for the brokering of FOG passports, including meeting Beard while Zietek was away. At his home, he discovered a FOG passport and several photographs of FOG customers.

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