British border control police stopped Pakistan International Airlines senior steward Shaukat Ali Cheema, 59, at Birmingham airport. Agents deemed his underpants suspicious.
An investigation and underwear search revealed that Cheema was carrying more than 70 counterfeit documents, in various names, concealed in compartments sewn into his underpants, the Guardian reported.
While the 26 passports and 37 passport biodata pages appeared at first glance to be genuine, all were found to be fakes.
UK border force staff also found 13 driving licences in his underwear. The underpants were taken down in evidence.
After Cheema was sentenced in Birmingham crown court to five years jail, Britain’s National Crime Agency issued a statement outlining the severity of the offence, to establish that the crime was far bigger than the underpants.
“The passports and driving licences that Cheema attempted to smuggle in his pants were intended for people across Europe and beyond,” Dawn Cartwright, of the NCA’s border policing command, declared.
“Fake documents are a serious concern for law enforcement. Those driving licences could have ended up in the hands of people who weren’t qualified, or safe, to drive. And more generally, fake and fraudulently obtained documents help criminals to avoid law enforcement detection and carry on in their criminality.”
Quite apart from the identity fraud involved, people driving on counterfeit licences have caused deaths and destruction in several countries in the world.
Cheema, a Pakistani who had worked for the airline for 40 years, pleaded guilty to possessing false identity documents with improper intention. Police suspect the counterfeit documents were intended for use in Italy, Belgium, Spain, Portugal and Pakistan, the Guardian reported.
The seizure is believed to be the biggest passports-in-underpants haul ever made.
Written by Peter Needham