On 2nd December 2, an Indian national was arrested in Leicester, United Kingdom, suspected of document forgery crimes and aiding illegal immigration, wanted in connection with an European arrest warrant issued by the Portuguese authorities.
The suspect was arrested following eight house searches in that city, in response to a letter issued in an investigation conducted by SEF under the guidance of DIAP Lisbon.
This investigation dismantled a criminal organization that was dedicated to the fraudulent acquisition of Portuguese nationality for Indian nationals purporting be born in the former Portuguese territories in India. This enabled them to acquire travel documents and therefore travel within Europe and the USA.
The investigation, called “Magic Book”, was initiated following the detection of Portuguese passport holders who were trying to enter the UK, US and Canada.
At issue is the acquisition of Portuguese nationality by citizens who appeared to have been born in India before 1961 in Goa, Daman and Diu, making use of Indian documentation including birth details, which do not correspond to the real official records.
After several months of investigation and collection of evidence in Portugal, searches and arrests were carried out in the Lisbon area, on 2 June 2015, following which three suspects are in custody and seven other defendants were recorded.
This first operation identified that some 3000 people, who had acquired Portuguese nationality in this way. The “clients” of the network paid 30 thousand euros for the documents, provided by the fraudsters.
Fraud in acquisition of Portuguese citizenship:
- The procedure for citizenship acquisition starts with false documents (supposedly) certified by Indian Authorities through «Hague Apostille», a formality used for the international certification of documents.
- Certified documents (birth certificates or passports) are delivered in the Central Registry Office [Conservatória dos Registos Centrais] of Lisbon, together with the application for acquisition of Portuguese citizenship.
- Once the citizen acquires Portuguese citizenship, identity cards [cartão de cidadão] and passports are requested at the Portuguese diplomatic representations or in national territory.
- The identity cards enable these new Portuguese citizens to travel to other countries, such as the United Kingdom, United States of America and Canada, where they take up residence.
- Given that these citizens do not take up residence in Portugal nor have any family or social tie with the Country, this “phenomenon” does not have visibility in national territory, and for that reason it stays off the radar of national authorities.
- Portuguese citizenship has also been requested posthumously, i.e. the children of alleged citizens born before 1961 in the former Portuguese territories in India request Portuguese citizenship for their deceased parents, based in documents with no credibility and from which all the descendants also become Portuguese. There are also some doubts regarding the feasibility of documents submitted by those alleged “children of deceased citizens”.
- There were also several situations of children of the same mother with only two and three months age difference who have obtained Portuguese citizenship.
- Once the citizenship is acquired, the new “Portuguese citizens” marry with third-country nationals, resulting in the legalisation of the spouse in national territory and acquisition of Portuguese citizenship after three years. The members of the criminal organisation who ensured the acquisition of Portuguese nationality by fraudulent means acted in exchange for large amounts of money. Those residing in Portugal and those who maintained convenience residence also receive social benefits, such as income support allowance, or family benefits.
Most of the beneficiaries who acquired Portuguese Nationality now reside in the UK, particularly in the cities of London and Leicester, having obtained Portuguese travel documents. This has enabled them to travel throughout Europe and traveling to North America.
The European arrest warrant targeted the suspect considered of utmost importance in this organization, who received thousands of euros enabling people to obtain authentic Portuguese travel documents based on fraudulent documents.
In the eight target house searches, were conducted by British authorities, accompanied by SEF personnel.