VILNIUS - A three-month operation by Italian and Lithuanian authorities has resulted in the bust of an illegal document-forging ring in the northern Lithuanian city of Siauliai.
Joint efforts of the Siauliai unit of the Lithuanian Border Guard Service and Italian authorities have exposed the key mediators and organizers of a passport factory for foreigners living illegally in countries of the European Union with fake Lithuanian documents.
Police have detained two men in possession of forged Lithuanian documents 's including three Lithuanian passports, a Lithuanian identity card, two driver's licenses and a Romanian identity card, the border guard said.
Following a bust in Turin by Italian authorities, involving two Moldovan men, an international police effort led the investigation to Siauliai where the two 43-year-old men were arrested.
They are believed to be the key organizers of the operation selling the forged documents.
Deputy Director of Lithuanian Police Forensic Science Giedrius Birmontas said that Lithuanians documents are popular to fake.
"The very price of the faked document is quite low, so citizens from the countries outside the EU can afford them. Besides, our passports already let us travel inside the EU without control. Furthermore, we will [soon be] able to enter the U.S.A. without visa," he said.
Birmontas compared Lithuania with larger EU countries, saying the differences could reveal more reasons why forged ID cards are so popular.
"Lithuania is a very small country itself, so our documents, like passports, could be unusual for customs officers to recognize. [They may not] even notice the difference between a real and a fake one. This can be compared with France or Great Britain, where their passports are well known and easy to recognize," he said.
Document specialists told The Baltic Times that people residing inside the EU are also looking for fake documents.
Citing statistics from the last nine months, the Chief of the Document Investigation Section at the Border Guard Service, Pavelas Staskevicius, said that not only foreigners are using forged identification cards.
"We have detained 68 people. They had 83 faked documents. 19 of these caught were Lithuanians carrying passports and driving licenses while crossing the border," he said.
Six of those Lithuanians caught with fake passports were minors or criminals who were believed to be using them for identity fraud or to escape police investigation.
According to Staskevicius, desperate people become victims themselves by buying faked identification cards.
"We already have 11 so-called 'fantasy documents,' which were issued by countries that don't exist. People are buying them online without any knowledge if such documents exist at all," the border guard official said.
Authorities found about 700 various forged documents in a garage area in Siauliai.
According to data provided by the Lithuanian Border Guard Service, forged passports sell for around 600 euros each, while the price for a driver's license or an ID card was 250 euros each.