SECURE: The new Latvian passports, now in line with European standards, is three times more secure, making forgeries nearly impossible.
RIGA - Two former government workers have been arrested in connection with a widening criminal investigation into approximately 100 forged passports. A total of 19 people have been implicated in the case.
The Latvian passports were allegedly created for use by affluent, non-EU citizens who wanted to travel throughout Europe. Police have confiscated all of the documents, which were reportedly issued between 2005 and 2006.
"The forged passports were mainly wanted for free movement within the European Union," Interior Minister Mareks Seglins told the Baltic News Service on Jan. 7.
While police have so far detained nine suspects in the case, only one has been named 's Olita Magone, head of the secretariat for the Special Task Ministry for Electronic Affairs. Magone resigned her position on Jan. 7.
"An investigation into [Magone] is being carried out," Security Police spokeswoman Kristine Apse-Krumina said in a Jan. 7 interview with LNT commercial television.
The daily Diena reported on Jan. 8 that the passports had been sold for anywhere between 10,000 and 100,000 euros each.
Police have so far remained tight-lipped over the investigation, saying only that the suspects include many current and former Office of Citizenship and Migration employees. Police have also indicated that a number of influential Russian citizens are involved in the case.
Office of Citizenship and Migration head Vilnis Jekabsons, who narrowly avoided being suspended over the affair, said the fake passports would have been quickly tracked down if used in another European country.
"If a person produces such a passport in foreign countries, the information on it, of course, does not appear on the common European database 's which in turn alerts the law enforcement authorities of the given country," Jekabsons told journalists on Jan. 7.
Jekabsons said such forgeries would be impossible with the new European standard for Latvian passports.
"The security system of passports has been tripled, and [today] such manipulations are impossible," he said.