An illegal immigrant who paid a New Zealand couple $8000 for their identities to get false passports – copies of which ended up in the hands of a master forger linked to a terror plot – has been deported.
The identities – which contained legitimate details of citizens matched with unknown photographs – were among 19 New Zealand passports found in the Thai apartment of a man accused of creating false passports for those involved in a botched bomb plot to kill Israeli diplomats.
New Zealand passports are highly sought after by criminal networks as the holders generally receive a lower level of scrutiny at borders and the Department of Internal Affairs says the travel document is considered to be one of the most secure in the world.
“Cristian Dario Alcalde” – real name unknown – paid $8000 to a couple in Northland, who agreed to apply for passports in their own names but attached photographs of other people.
The Iranian national pleaded guilty to the six passport offences in December in order to return to his wife and daughter, who are in “serious peril”, as soon as possible.
Judge Russell Collins said falsifying passports was a serious offence and sentenced him to two years’ jail.
The judge said millions of people travelled each year and immigration authorities relied on the integrity of the passport system to protect international borders.
“We are all conscious of the world we live in.”
Despite the two year sentence, Alcalde was released from prison this week and taken straight to the airport.
A spokeswoman for Immigration New Zealand confirmed he was deported back to Iran.
“He was escorted from Auckland to Bangkok by two New Zealand police officers. From Bangkok to Tehran, he was escorted by three private airline security personnel,” she said.
It’s the second time he has been deported back to Iran, from where he was still able to obtain more false passports and return to New Zealand.
Prior to his arrest, the Iranian national had been living in Auckland courtesy of his Australian passport – also false – until he took the two New Zealand passports to Thailand in January 2012.
At this point, Australian authorities cancelled his fake passport and the Thais deported him to Iran.
However, copies of the two New Zealand passports obtained by Alcalde were discovered a few months later in the home of an Iranian who allegedly supplied fake documents to terrorists, drug smugglers and human traffickers around the world.
Scanned biodata pages of more than 3000 passports and drivers’ licences from 67 countries were found in the Bangkok apartment of Seyed Ramin Miraziz Paknejad, as well as sophisticated computer and counterfeiting equipment.
Scans of 19 New Zealand passports, including the two obtained by Alcalde, were stored on a thumb drive with 14 of those reported lost or stolen in Thailand.
The 46-year-old Paknejad, also known as Parknejed Seyed Ramin, was arrested in Thailand after a botched plot to kill Israeli diplomats in February 2012.
Despite being deported from Thailand to Iran, Alcalde was able to slip back into New Zealand in August 2012 under yet another false identity — a British passport stolen in Spain.
He then tried to arrange for another New Zealand passport for him, as well as his wife and child before he was caught.