Nine employees of the Administrative Services of the Ministry of Interior in North Macedonia were nabbed today for issuing passports to criminal elements attempting to hide or fake their identities.

They were detained on Tuesday following a two-year operation by police officers from the Department for Suppression of Organized and Serious Crime and the Department for Internal Control, Criminal Investigations and Professional Standards at the Ministry of Interior in cooperation with the Public Prosecutor from the Public Prosecutor’s Office, Skopje.

Minister of Interior, Oliver Spasovski issued a press statement explaining the modus operandi of “officials employed in the Administrative Services of the Ministry of Interior as administrative affairs officers and controllers”. He said that they “abused their official position and authority by issuing Macedonian passports to foreign nationals, using the foreign identity of citizens of the Republic of Northern Macedonia, who at the time of issuance did not have biometric IDs.” He further explained, “The officials committed the crime in a manner contrary to the provisions of the Procedure for issuance of travel documents, visas and records from the Law on Passports of the citizens of RSM, which enabled a total of 215 persons – of which 214 foreign nationals and one Macedonian citizen to acquired a Macedonian passport under someone else’s identity.”

The United States and Interpol played a key role in helping nab the ring. “Through international police cooperation through the US Regional Security Office, as well as the General Secretariat of INTERPOL Lyon and INTERPOL Skopje, support was provided to identify the true identities of the individuals,” said Spasovski.

Beneficiaries of the passport racket include “persons who are members of international organized criminal groups, drug cartels, persons involved in other serious crimes” and that the operation also involved “a person who does not have official powers but is an intermediary between the applicants for passports with false identity and the officials.”

The Department for Suppression of Organized and Serious Crime will now file criminal charges against ten people (nine of whom have been detained) by the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Skopje, and they will be handed over to the competent prosecutor’s office on Wednesday.

*Feature image courtesy Pudelek via Wikimedia Commons.