VISAKHAPATNAM: In what appears to be the tip of the iceberg of a big scam, at least 300 people have obtained their passports from regional passport office at Visakhapatnam by submitting fake birth certificates over the last two years. The passport authorities have launched a probe into the issue in a discreet manner to nab the passport holders as well as touts and the officials who allegedly helped them obtain the passports.
The malpractice came to the fore on December 9 last with the City Task Force police busting a five-member gang, including two government officials, for fabricating birth certificates for passport applicants. In December, regional passport officer (Vizag) NLP Choudhary, after finding that around 80 applicants claimed themselves to be natives of Dharmavaram village in Vizinagaram district, as per the certificates enclosed with the applications, alerted the City Task Fore police.
Investigations led to the arrest of five members of a gang which were providing fake birth certificates to passport seekers, charging a premium. Among 80 applicants, around 60 have already been issued passports.
Preliminary investigation revealed the gang was running operations from Dharmavaram.
As per the norms, applicants born after January 26,1989, need to submit their birth certificates issued by the Registrar of Births and Deaths (RBD). The gang prepared the fake certificates by using digital signatures of authorities concerned, with the help of panchayat secretary and registrar of Births and deaths P Suribabu, and an out-sourcing technical assistant S Santosh. And in past one-and-half years, they issued fake certificates to over 300 people.A police officer on condition of anonymity said among the 300 certificates issued, around 90 pc might have been used for passport purposes, as the link starts right from the regional passport office, Visakhapatnam.
RPO Choudhary said the list would be identified with police help and the passports issued over forged documents would be blocked. This apart, a few applicants have been submitting fake SSC certificates to Vizag passport office. The case is also being brought before police,” he said.
ACP (CTF) I Chittibabu said even if the passport holders were settled abroad, their passports can be blocked and action will be initiated against them.