Two Brazilian illegal immigrants who set up Britain's biggest fake passport factory have been jailed for five years
Police believe Lucas Fernandez Jesus, 26, and Werleson Rodrigo Ferraira De-Oliveira, 25, could have caused an extraordinary £360 million of damage to the British banking and credit card industry.
They had the capability of producing hundreds of thousands of forged documents and their passports alone were worth £12 million on the black market.
But their racket was set up for just £20,000 using equipment easily available from any High Street computer chain such as PC World.
Yesterday as both men were locked up at Snaresbrook Crown Court in East London, Judge George Khayat, QC, said the passports could have potentially also been used by terrorists.
He said: "It really is as simple and blunt as that. The country is afraid of people who use false identities to gain access to all sorts of places."
"I do not accept the assurance that you would never have supplied them to any potential terrorists, for a variety of reasons."
"If you used a middle man you would have no control of it and no person is going to come to you and say I have an act of terrorism in mind please give me a false identity or travel document."
Detective Sergeant Tony Lynes, of the Metropolitan Police, said the forged passports could also easily have been used to commit benefit, credit card, loan and mortgage fraud.
He added: "These ID documents would have gone from between £400 - £1,000 apiece. But the potential loss to the UK was much greater."
"The damage to the immigration system would have been immense. The documents gave illegal immigrants indefinite leave to stay in the UK."
"This would have enabled them to get a foothold in the country which would have entitled them to state benefits. This undermines the whole system of immigration and disadvantages people claiming in the right way."
"The damage to the banking and credit card industry is potentially huge if each of the passports was used to it's full potential the sort of damage they could do could be between £30 - £35,000 each."
"If you times that by 12,000 you are looking at somewhere in the region of £360 million. These two men would have swamped the streets of London and done untold damage."
The court heard how both men entered the UK on short term visas five years ago which they overstayed.
Within a year they had set up a passport factory based in a rented house in Stamford Hill, North London.
When police raided it in November 2005 after a tip-off from a central London stationers, officers found 'wall-to-wall machinery' - along with along with 12,000 passport covers, hundreds of passport photographs, driving licences and utility bills.
Simon Wild, prosecuting, said the forgeries were of " a very, very high specification."
He added: "All the hard materials were top quality and the finished product would have been indistinguishable from the real thing, apart from there being no watermark on the paper, which no counterfeiter could do."
Officers also seized £111,000 in cash in De Oliveira's £1,000 a month flat in Rotherhithe, South London.
They also found false Spanish, Italian and Portuguese passports.
Police said the duo had already sold off hundreds of Portuguese drivers licenses and had lined-up hundreds of clients for the passports.
Information on hundreds of illegal immigrants has been passed on to the Immigration Service and police believe the fraudsters were just two weeks away from producing the passports "en-mass."
Inside the "factory," police found specialist equipment easily available in the High Street.
Detective Constable Neil Taylor said: 'Officers found printers and scanners and an array of other equipment that is available in PC World but is still high level stuff.
"They also found specialist machinery used for producing and embossing fake documents, laminators, a hot foil press that is readily available on the open market but still expensive."
"This was used to emboss the gold leaf on the front of the passports."
Police also found three passport printing plates with Italian, Spanish and Portuguese insignias, 6,000 A4 sheets of paper and hundreds of blank rubber stamps.'
Both men pleaded guilty to conspiracy to make false instruments, mainly passports, driving licences and identity cards between January 1 and November 1 last year.
Two jailed over hi-tech passport forging factory
Fake Passport Factory Forgers Jailed