Dozens of false passports were discovered during security
checks before a new online passport renewal system was
introduced last week.
New Zealand passports are highly sought after by criminal
networks, and the 65 false documents found was a spike on the
number discovered since tighter security measures were
introduced in 2003.
The discovery by the Department of Internal Affairs was made
during checks before the automatic process to enable adults
to renew passports online was launched.
The online renewal system, which began on Friday, will save
passport holders up to $28.80.
But in a bid to "cleanse" the database before it began, 4.5
million passport photos were matched against each other by
facial recognition technology - a total of 21 trillion
Of those, 210,000 possible matches had to be checked by human
eyes and most were discovered to be clerical or imaging
errors or identical twins.
But the checks also found 65 passports or applications that
are suspected to be false.
A falsely obtained passport is genuine, not forged, but the
details do not match the real identity of the person in the
A DIA spokeswoman did not rule out further false passports
being discovered through the data-matching process.
Of the 65 suspected false passports, 30 had been referred to
the police for further investigation.
"There are a number where the offender appears to be now
living overseas, outside of New Zealand jurisdiction, or some
where the offender has died, and the balance are ones we are
still gathering evidence about."
DIA general manager of passports David Philp has previously
told the Herald most passport fraud was committed by New
Zealand citizens who had genuine passports but sought another
in a fake identity.
"That could be for a whole lot of reasons," Mr Philp said.
"They may want to travel to a country where their criminal
record may stop that, they may want to travel to a country
where they have convictions, or they're involved in financial
fraud or organised crime."
The introduction of data-matching with the deaths register -
so passports are automatically cancelled when someone dies -
led to a decrease in the number of false passports.
Today's passports, which have an electronic chip, are harder
to forge than the old-style documents.
Passports must now be renewed every five years, which also
reduces the likelihood of fraud.
New Zealand's reputation as a law-abiding nation makes its
passports valuable to criminals and others wanting to escape
- Jared Savage