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Caveat Emptor:
Let the Buyer Beware

Lost your money to a second passport fraud? You are not alone. But you might consider yourself lucky compared to some.

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LAWRENCE BUCKLEY
for offshore-fox.com

In my office at home I keep a file that grows thicker as the years pass. Inside are offers made by a wide variety of corporations, often with implausible names and from very exotic locations (International Attorneys S.A. from Aruba and then the Seychelles, some nonsense corporation from Budapest, and many others), offering all manner of tempting second passport offers.

Many of these operations disappear from sight after a short time often leaving their clients with either nothing at all except a large financial loss, or some worthless and perhaps very dangerous, illegally obtained document. I call such documents dangerous because a person in possession of one of these -- even though he or she may have obtained it in good faith -- will probably be arrested if the document is detected as being fraudulent whilst under official scrutiny. The best that might be hoped for is deportation, the worst a custodial sentence.

Those that sell such documents pray upon the client's limited knowledge of what remains a little understood area of law and an often desperate human need. In some ways, the crooks who merely disappear with their clients funds are fractionally morally superior to those who supply illegal documents -- at least the applicant only suffers a limited financial loss, rather than risking imprisonment.

I offer the following list as a warning of the danger of deception. I am not in the habit of judging others' activities and follow the biblical line " first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then thou see clearly to cast out the mote of thy brother's eye" (St. Matthew 7:5). However, I hope to enable the readership of this article to see a little clearer and be in a better position to make an informed decision.

A wide variety of illegal, bogus and sometimes dangerous second passports exist and these can be categorised as follows:

Identity Theft

This form of document is 100% illegal although very prevalent. The process involves the use of another person's birth certificate and/or other documents, often together with the assistance of a corrupt official in a passport-issuing office.

Stolen and Falsified Passports

This form of second passport is the most dangerous and is most likely to be detected.

Often passports are stolen from a passport-issuing office (such as town hall) and then falsely doctored. Belgium, for example, issued passports on a regional communal basis and some of these communes had an archaic hand-written passport that was a common target for this form of activity. Belgian passports were once offered at hugely inflated prices, apparently to justify their first-world "quality". Nevertheless, these documents landed many of their owners in very deep trouble as they were reported as stolen and listed as such in police databases.

Semi-official Passports

Many countries will grant passports to foreign nationals who reside in their country for a number of years -- the idea being that the foreigner has spent time and money there and will be contributing to the economy and so forth. Sometimes five years can turn into five minutes. This happens when an envelope containing the requisite number of dollar bills appears on an immigration official's table. False paperwork is then filed declaring that the applicant arrived in the country five years ago and therefore fulfils the criterion. A number of palms will have to be greased too and as this passport was obtained as a result of corruption it is illegal. It is not uncommon for these rackets to carry on for a number of years and then be exposed when a new political party takes control. The passport is then rendered useless as the disgraced officials are revealed as corrupt and their handy work declared void.

Shadow Passport Schemes

These are passport programs that operate alongside official programs and are designed to deceive. They are usually perpetrated by corrupt officials eager to get a piece of the action for themselves and tempted by the seemingly easy pickings available and the credibility offered by the official program. This has been a problem in the Central American region particularly in Belize.

Camouflage Passports

These documents are not illegal as such and are sold by a firm in "cyberspace" quite openly. They offer passports from states that have ceased to exist and changed their names: such as British Honduras, Burma, Dutch Guiana, Spanish Guinea, Zanzibar, Rhodesia, New Granada, British West Indies, Eastern Samoa, USSR, British Guyana, New Hebrides, Netherlands East Indies and so on.

The documents are sold for a highly inventive and highly unlikely reason. The usual sales tactic is that should you encounter a hijacking, you should quickly pull out your bogus passport from the USSR. Your US, Israeli or British document -- dependant on the political bent of your captors -- being a sure fire means of ensuring that you are first off the gangplank if bloodshed occurs. This extraordinary rationale clearly masks the real attraction of these "historical curiosities". Use them to travel across borders or open bank accounts and you will of course be committing an illegal act. Many of what I have seen termed "Privacy Boutiques" sell this kind of rubbish along with other equally useless items.

African Passports

A cheap, easy and completely useless option. These documents are widely available and are also touted by "Privacy Boutiques" who will, for example, sell you a passport from Mozambique for as little as $4000 --your "investment" in Mozambique being supposedly used to fund a dam project.

The truth behind this assertion is difficult to prove one way or the other. What is without doubt is that a document from Mozambique is about as much use as a chocolate teapot. You can travel virtually nowhere, any bank that accepts it as a valid form of ID is a bank which should be avoided and you run the not insubstantial risk that the document may have been obtained in some unorthodox fashion and therefore be a potential source of problems for your person or assets.

Let me state categorically that I have no knowledge of what kind of document the Mozambique one is but experience of other African states leads me to the conclusion that caution might be an appropriate response. Documents from Chad, in Western Africa, were offered for many years by an individual in London; at one time, they were perfectly legally issued but equally as useless. The official route was then closed but this did not prevent them from being available -- they were merely stolen and the business carried on as usual. The truth was eventually revealed but not before many people had bought the bogus document.

Passports from Fictitious Countries

There are many of so-called "privacy boutiques" that litter the Internet with their rubbish and their easy-solution "must have" items. They exhibit monstrously low levels of professionalism (which is rife in the second passport arena) and tend to focus on conspiracies and other suspect justifications for the absolute need for their merchandise.

Such "Privacy Boutiques" also often offer passports from non-existent countries or unrecognised micro-nations. Oceanus, for example, is a "nation" operated from a P.O. Box and claims "all territory below the mean high tide". The genesis behind these "nations" ranges from libertarianism through eccentricity to fraud.

I have been amazed to hear of the number of people who have fallen for the scam that is the "Dominion of Melchizidek", run by convicted con artist Mark Pedley (who also goes under the bizarre name of Branch Vinedresser)! Melchizidek offers passports, bank charters and all manner of useless paperwork. Do not be another victim of this long-term deception.

Special mention needs to given to the brilliantly eccentric free thinker King Roy of Sealand who claims "Sealand", a platform lying in the North Sea just outside the UK territorial waters. King Roy claims he does not issue passports even though one turned up in the Versace murder case.

Buyer Beware

I hope it will then have become apparent to the readership of this article that there are many dangers awaiting the hopeful recipient of a second passport.

You must not only be sure of the advisor who is introducing the passport program but also the validity of the program itself. It may be that the advisor himself is scrupulously honest but has himself been deceived. This is not uncommon with many well-known and honourable agents getting caught off-guard -- as with the case of Chad -- where greed dictates that in the event of the official route drying up, an alternative illegal one may appear. This means that what was perfectly legitimate one week may turn out to be bogus the next.


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