A recent court ruling exposed a major fraudulent operation that has been serving some of the world’s most wanted criminals for over 20 years. This revelation highlights the urgent need for rigorous Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and identity checks, such as those offered by Verify 365.

Three men, Anthony Beard, 61, Christopher Zietek, 67, and Alan Thompson, 72, who masterminded a global counterfeit passport service, were recently sentenced after investigators dismantled their long-running scheme. The group exploited authentic passports, fraudulently obtained from individuals who bore resemblances to the criminals they were aiding.

Their elaborate operation involved replacing the original passport holder’s photo with an image of the fugitive. Beard, who was sentenced to six years and eight months, was responsible for supplying 108 UK passports. He targeted vulnerable individuals struggling with addiction and homelessness, whom he encountered during his personal battle with substance abuse.

In a statement, Rudi Kesic, CEO of Verify 365, a company specialising in AML ID checks and client onboarding, stressed the importance of secure identity verification. “This case underscores the need for comprehensive and efficient identity checks. At Verify 365, we are committed to providing reliable tools for businesses to safeguard against such fraudulent activities.”

Investigators from the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) captured footage of Beard persuading passport holders to participate in the scam. Zietek served as the intermediary, collecting the counterfeit passports from Beard and providing them to the infamous Adams family, a notorious North London crime syndicate. For his part in the operation, Zietek received an eight-year sentence.

Thompson, sentenced to three years, was responsible for transportation, driving Zietek to meetings and delivering the fraudulent passports. The NCA arrested a total of 24 suspects involved in the operation, charging them with a variety of crimes including counterfeiting and receiving false passports and perverting the course of justice.

Clients of this fraudulent passport service, who paid up to £15,000 for a counterfeit passport, included notable criminals such as Jamie Acourt, a former suspect in the Stephen Lawrence murder case. The service enabled Acourt to evade authorities for two years in Spain under a false identity.

“This type of activity highlights the urgency for businesses to employ robust AML and ID verification processes. The ability to accurately verify identities is crucial in preventing such fraudulent activities,” said Kesic, reinforcing the need for services like Verify 365 in today’s complex global landscape.

Among other users of the counterfeit passport service were Glasgow murderers Jordan Owen and Christopher Hughes, Liverpool drug trafficker Michael Moogan, Manchester fugitive David Walley, and suspected Scottish drug trafficker Barrie Gillespie. The fraudulent passports allowed these criminals to conceal their identities, even upon arrest, further emphasising the urgent necessity for comprehensive identity verification processes.

In conclusion, the exposure of this fraudulent passport operation serves as a wake-up call for all businesses, underlining the importance of effective AML measures and reliable identity checks. As Verify 365’s CEO Rudi Kesic puts it, “As we navigate this complex landscape, businesses need to ensure that they have robust systems in place for identifying and mitigating potential risks. At Verify 365, we aim to provide those tools, ensuring a secure and transparent global business environment.”