Over 6,000 passports go to wrong hands
More than 6,000 Machine Readable Passports (MRP), not 2,280 pieces as figured out on July 11, have been stolen from the Agargaon passport office, a probe body suspects.
The six-member probe committee headed by a Lieutenant Colonel was formed on June 21, after the immigration at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport had detected several forged MRPs early that month.
On July 11, the passport department discarded the serial numbers of 2,280 stolen MRPs. The authorities on July 22 discarded a total of 89,425 MRPs, which had been reissued due to errors in printing or some other faults but still bore mistakes.
High officials of home ministry and the passport department in a meeting on Monday expressed concern that the stolen passports might be used by those who were not legally eligible for a passport, such as Rohingya refugees, convicts and people with criminal track record.
With Home Minister Shahara Khatun in chair, the meeting was attended by State Minister for Home Shamsul Haque Tuku, Director General of Passport Department Abdul Mabud, Inspector General of Police and high immigration officials.
Tuku yesterday told The Daily Star that the Agargaon passport office had earlier discarded some MRPs but the enquiry committee apprehended that the number of stolen passports could be higher.
A source in the meeting said they had stressed the need for tracing the serial numbers of the stolen MRPs to discard those immediately, as in case of delay criminals might use those.
Asked who could be involved in the stealing, DG Abdul Mabud told The Daily Star, “The enquiry committee is working to find out the weak link in the system. The passports might have been stolen from the storehouse or from the desk of any personnel involved with issuing MRPs.”
Once the committee detected the personnel, the outsiders would be tracked down easily, he said, adding, “Each of our MRP book has 38 security features. So, it would be tough to use forged MRP.”
A high official of the home ministry said the total process in the passport office was overseen by army personnel and no other officers had access to certain jobs unless the army personnel deployed allowed them to.
Another official of the ministry said as the government had prioritised police verification before issuing passports to Rohingya refugees, criminals were trying to sell MRPs to the refugees in exchange for handsome amount of money.
State Minister Tuku said they had decided to file a case in connection with the stealing accusing unidentified criminals. Meanwhile, since the committee could not complete its task by July 20, the earlier deadline, the time had been extended until August 10, 2012, he added.