Garda investigations at the Passport Office indicate that foreign nationals, rather than Irish criminal gangs, were the beneficiaries of a suspected passport fraud.
Two employees of the office in Dublin have been questioned and released in relation to the production of the passports. A file is being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.
A senior team from the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation is conducting a “dredge” through all the passports the two employees — a man and a woman — were involved in.
The indications so far are that the alleged fraud was limited, with sources suggesting they did not believe it was neither widespread nor going on for a long time.
A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said they were working with gardaí: “This is now a criminal investigation into passport fraud.”
He said: “The Passport Service takes the issue of passport fraud very seriously and in the last number of years has strengthened measures to identify and prevent potential fraud.”
An investigation was launched by the passport office in May. The department said that internal checks revealed irregularities in two passports issued by the office.
The NBCI team is trying to establish the motive behind the suspect fraud and is investigating whether or not there was any exchange of money for the passports.
It appears that the passports were for foreign nationals not entitled to an Irish passport, rather than organised crime.
The passport itself is 100% genuine and would be accepted at any passport control.
It is understood that more than one person is required in the Passport Office to authorise a passport.
The NBCI team stepped up their inquiries on Tuesday morning with the arrest of a 30-year-old man in Skerries, north Co Dublin. He was taken to Balbriggan Garda Station and detained under section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act 1984. He was released on Wednesday without charge and a file is being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.
A woman, also aged 30, was arrested on Tuesday afternoon in Dublin and was questioned at Ballymun Garda Station and was released yesterday.
It is understood they have interviewed some of the those who received the passports.
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