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ADAMS GANG TO KINAHANS: OAP dodgy passport gang moved in top echelon crime circles

OAPs behind a massive fraudulent passport ring, that helped fugitives, including murderers, evade capture were linked to some of the biggest organised crime figures of the past 30 years.

Anthony Beard, 61, (top left) and Christopher Zietek, 67, (middle) were caught after a covert surveillance operation by the National Crime Agency (NCA) found they provided fraudulently-obtained genuine passports (FOGs) to organised criminals over a five-year period.

Zietek, formerly Christopher McCormack, is believed to have previously been an enforcer for the notorious north London Adams crime family, known as the A-Team.

Criminals who the pair were found to have supplied the passports to included Christy "Dapper Don" Kinahan, head of the notorious Irish cartel named after him, and Stephen Lawrence murder suspect Jamie Acourt, who used one while on the run over a cannabis importation.

Customers paid between £5,000 and £20,000 for the highly sought after documents, which were issued authentically but applied for using false information. They allowed them to operate abroad and carry on conducting criminality affecting the UK.

After the NCA established the false identities offenders were using, many fugitives have now been caught all over the world following joint working with UK police forces and international partners.

Among the recipients were Glasgow murderers Jordan Owen and Christopher Hughes, Liverpool drug trafficker Michael Moogan – who was jailed for 12 years in March this year – Manchester fugitive David Walley, and suspected Scottish drug traffickers Barrie Gillespie, Jamie Stevenson and James White.

The NCA’s investigation codenamed Operation Strey started 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’s crime group exploited 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 OCG also paid others to counter sign passport applications.

Beard, from Sydenham, London, was an expert in FOGs, and NCA officers believe he had been procuring them for 20 years.

He was involved in every aspect of organising 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 offences, 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, analysed 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 offences 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 3 January 2023, the first day of a nine-week trial at Reading Crown Court. Zietek was found guilty on 17 March.

NCA Deputy Director Craig Turner said:

“The fraudulent passports this crime group supplied were seen as golden tickets by criminals, as they allowed them to operate internationally under false identities and pose a sustained threat to the public.

“The investigation demonstrates the NCA’s unique role in tackling the most serious and complex crime threats facing the UK. We have dismantled a crime group that enabled drug and firearm traffickers, murderers and fugitives to evade justice.

“We worked across international borders to bring the masterminds to account, and we will continue to protect the UK from criminals who present a threat to our security, people and economy.”

Zietek diversified into supplying false Latvian documentation to some criminals, including Christopher Hughes who was wanted by Police Scotland, as the impact of the investigation had begun to make obtaining British FOGs more difficult.

In December 2019, Zietek needed to travel to Portugal to hand over the Latvian documentation to Hughes in person but paid a woman he knew to travel instead.

Recordings of conversations revealed Zietek giving the woman tips about avoiding detection at the airport, and what to say if apprehended. Hughes’s Latvian passport was wrapped up and placed it in a Garmin Edge box to make it look like a Christmas present.

After the courier checked in her baggage, it was covertly searched by NCA officers before the flight departed the UK. A DNA profile recovered from the passport was a match for Zietek. The woman handed Hughes the passport at a hotel in Portugal before returning to the UK just an hour later.

Another member of the crime group, Alan Thompson, 72, from Sutton, Surrey, was also found guilty on 17 March. 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.

At Reading Crown Court today (16 May) Zietek was sentenced to eight years imprisonment, Beard to six years and Thompson to three years.

Beard, of Kirkdale, Sydenham, pleaded guilty on January 3 to conspiracy to pervert the course of public justice, conspiracy to make a false instrument with intent. A money laundering charge will lay on file.

Zietek, of Estepona, Spain and Collingtree Road, Sydenham, London, was convicted of conspiracy to pervert the course of public justice, conspiracy to make a false instrument with intent, and money laundering.

Alan Thompson, of Westminster Road, Sutton, Surrey was convicted of conspiracy to pervert the course of public justice, conspiracy to make a false instrument with intent, and money laundering.

Among the recipients of FOG passports supplied by the OCG were:

•Jordan Owen - sought by Police Scotland for the murder of Jamie Lee and later convicted with a sentence passed of 23 years. A European Arrest Warrant had been issued for him at the time he sought a FOG through the crime group. Following cooperation with the Portuguese police, Owen was caught in Lisbon in December 2019.

•Christopher Hughes was wanted by Police Scotland for involvement in serious organised crime and a conspiracy to murder Dutch crime blogger Martin Kok, who was shot dead at an Amsterdam nightclub in 2016. Hughes, who the group supplied a FOG to before seeking to provide an Irish FOG and then later a fake Latvian passport/driving licence, was eventually caught at a hotel in Turin, Italy, in January 2020. Hughes has since been convicted of all offences and sentenced to life with a minimum tariff of 25 years.

•Michael Moogan was one of the UK’s most wanted fugitives and had been on the run for eight years before being arrested in Dubai in April 2021. Following an NCA investigation, Moogan admitted conspiring to bring hundreds of kilos of cocaine into the UK every month. He was jailed today (17 March) for 12 years..

•David Walley, who was also one of the UK’s most wanted fugitives, had been on the run since 2013. Despite trying to obtain a FOG through the crime group, he was eventually caught in Cheshire in May 2020. Walley awaits trial for drug trafficking offences.

•Paul Scott, who was sought by Police Scotland for 25 offences including directing serious organised crime and firearms/explosives offences, was in Spain in 2018 using his FOG passport when checking into a hotel. The NCA had identified the FOG prior to this and placed covert markers on international systems, which were triggered when he used the passport. Scott was arrested and later extradited to the UK to stand trial where he was convicted and sentenced to seven years.


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