Passport forger had passports from 4 countries to conceal true identity

In order to avoid detection, he carried seven fake passports - including three Brazilian, one Peruvian, one Portuguese and one New Zealand - and changed phone numbers on a regular basis, using helpers to contact customers, police revealed.

Before his arrest in Chachoengsao province on Monday, Iranian Hamid Reza Jafary, 48, lived a peaceful life in Thailand for more than two decades. Police say he specialised in supplying "mirror-grade or AAA-grade" passports and catered to human smuggling gangs and a worldwide clientele.

The man reportedly had many houses here. Thai authorities are hunting for more accomplices and are searching the suspect's rented home in the National Housing Authority's Nong Chok estate in Bangkok where he welcomed foreign guests.

Police allege the Chachoengsao house with a computer shop on the ground floor was used for making fake passports. Jafary was arrested there along with what police claim is incriminating evidence, including 173 fake passports and equipment.

Immigration Police chief Pol Lt-General Natthorn Phrosunthorn yesterday confirmed his office would continue to suppress national security crime and scan suspicious passports at all Thai airports. He called the capture of "The Doctor", a wanted person for forgery in many countries, and five Pakistani accomplices, the police's most important forgery bust.

"We cannot confirm whether this passport forgery case is linked to the smuggling of jihadist group Islamic State members into a third country. But we can say such crime is linked to a national security issue. Immigration Police will strictly check on passports and submit suspicious ones to a more-detailed digital imaging system called VSC 6000 [video spectral compactor], which is installed at all airports," he added.

Natthorn said Jafary allegedly forged passports - be it a whole book or partial one - by copying a smuggled person's photograph onto a stolen passport - in exchange for Bt50,000 to Bt80,000 payment per book. As he allegedly supplied forged documents to gangs that smuggle people - mostly South Asians or Middle Eastern people - into a third country in Europe, Thai police are now seeking more of Jafary's accomplices, including Pakistani agents who helped find customers for him.

A source at the Immigration Police team on this case said that most criminals forging passports were foreigners who used Thailand as their base thanks to the country's position as a major transport hub. "People view Thailand as a fake passport hub but actually the forgers that we caught were foreigners," he said. He recalled that in 2007, Bangkok's Nana area and the Chana Songkhram police jurisdiction were known for forged passports; each year hundreds of forgers were arrested. However, the number was shrinking these days thanks to difficulties in forging modern passports and the expert detailed inspection by inspectors.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha, presiding over yesterday's meeting on the Internal Security Operations Command's annual achievements at the Government House, urged agencies to crack down on passport forgery crimes. He commented that Iranian forger suspect Jafary's case stemmed from negligence and this government would rid the country of such crimes.