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Monday, February 26, 2024

Increased Prison Terms for Crime Bosses Who Supplied Fraudulent Passports to Criminals

Beard and Zietek, both from Sydenham in southeast London, would exploit vulnerable people – often with drink or drug problems – who were around the same age as their clients and with similar facial features. They were paid for providing their expired passports, and their details were used to apply for new ones but with photographs of the criminals.

Two members of an organized crime group who supplied fraudulently-obtained genuine passports (FOGs) to the criminal underworld in the U.K. have had their sentences increased.

The passports, which were issued authentically but applied for using false information, were sold to criminal clients for up to £20,000 by Christopher Zietek, 67, Anthony Beard, 61, and Alan Thompson, 73. Among their customers were Glasgow murderers Jordan Owens and Christopher Hughes, Liverpool drug trafficker Michael Moogan, and Manchester fugitive David Walley.

The three were originally sentenced in May 2023 at Reading Crown Court, but at a hearing on Aug. 25, the Court of Appeal ruled that Zietek and Beard’s previous sentences were unduly lenient and the judge increased them to a total of 22 years. Zietek’s prison term was raised from eight years to 12 years and Beard’s from six years to 10 years and two months. Thompson’s three-year sentence was not increased.

Jacqueline Beer, National Crime Agency (NCA) Regional Head of Investigations, said: “These men ran a lucrative illegal enterprise that enabled some of the U.K.’s most heinous criminals to evade justice in the U.K. and cross international borders undetected. The increase in their prison sentences adequately reflects the severity of their offending and the harm it did in the U.K. and beyond.”

The NCA’s investigation began in 2017 – it ran in partnership with the Dutch National Police and HM Passport Office, and has been one of the most significant undertaken by the Agency in recent times.

Beard and Zietek, both from Sydenham in southeast London, would exploit vulnerable people – often with drink or drug problems – who were around the same age as their clients and with similar facial features. They were paid for providing their expired passports, and their details were used to apply for new ones but with photographs of the criminals. The crime group also paid others to countersign passport applications.

Beard was an expert in FOGs, and NCA officers believe he had been procuring them for 20 years. He was involved in every aspect of organizing and applying for the passports, including collecting application forms and planning the details to be provided by the applicant and the counter-signatory. His fingerprints were found on many of the forms, and contact numbers he included were for numerous ‘burner’ phones he operated. Handwriting experts established he completed most of the application forms, and a voice recognition specialist determined Beard called HM Passport Office to chase up applications pretending to be the people named on the forms.

Beard, who pleaded guilty to fraud offenses, also admitted supplying over 70 FOGs used by other criminals, including Jamie Acourt, Christy Kinahan, and firearms trafficker Richard Burdett.

Zietek, who was formerly known as Christopher McCormack and was believed to be an enforcer for the Adams crime family in London, split his time between Sydenham, Ireland and Spain. He acted as the FOG broker and exploited his criminal connections to obtain clients for the crime group.

The NCA captured audio recordings in Zietek’s house of incriminating conversations with Beard and others about the application processes and their customers. Officers also observed meetings with identity donors or counter-signatories, analyzed reams of mobile phone and cell site data, and deployed undercover officers to deliver some of the passports.

Zietek and Beard were arrested during coordinated NCA raids in October 2021.Between them charges were brought for offenses of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, conspiracy to make a false instrument with intent (passports and ID documents), and money laundering. Beard changed his plea to guilty on January 3, 2023, the first day of a nine-week trial, and Zietek was found guilty on March 17.

Thompson, from Sutton, Surrey, was also found guilty on March 17. He worked for Zietek doing everything from chauffeuring him to criminal meetings to performing necessary tasks for the brokering of FOG passports, including meeting Beard when Zietek was abroad. A FOG passport and several photographs of FOG customers were located at his home.

Read more at the National Crime Agency

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