Cabinet: structural errors in issuing passports

For a decade, structural mistakes have been made in the issuance of passports that encourage corruption. A large sample of 17 municipalities showed that the procedure for issuing passports was not followed in more than 25 percent of cases between 2010 and 2019. That’s in a letter by State Secretary Alexandra van Huffelen (Digitalization and Kingdom Relations, D66) to the House of Representatives.

In the letter sent last week, Van Huffelen reports that several criminal investigations are underway into corrupt officials. The State Secretary cannot say how many there are because of the confidential nature of these investigations. But according to Van Huffelen, “as far as we know, this concerns a limited number of corrupt officials”.

In those investigations, it has now been established in dozens of cases that criminals use legally issued passports with a photo that does not correspond to the name of the user. That number will continue to rise. With such a passport, criminals can travel and still stay under the radar.

At the beginning of this week, a public hearing in a lawsuit against a municipal official in The Hague revealed that more than twenty criminals have been issued legally issued passports in recent years. The investigation into this official started in 2019 after it emerged that Ridouan Taghi was in possession of such a passport when he was detained in Dubai. Other criminal leaders have also been able to travel between 2009 and 2016 with a fake passport that has been issued legally.

The official in question made both the application and the issuance for that passport himself. That’s against the rules. An official making the application may not be involved in the issuance of the pass.

Also read: ‘Former Hague municipal official forged passport for Taghi’

This case has exposed a structural problem. The study checked 8.7 million passport applications between 2010 and 2019. In 2.4 million cases, the application and processing were done by the same official. This is especially the case in municipalities with less than 100,000 inhabitants.

Passports outside office hours

More problems have been identified. In more than 180,000 cases, a passport photo was approved for no specific reason, even though the equipment had rejected that photo. And in 18,000 cases the procedures for the duration were deviated from, or passports were issued outside office hours, which makes control more difficult.

The investigation also revealed that the file of the municipalities for applying for and archiving travel documents contains incorrect data. The extent of this problem is under investigation. Discussions have also been held with the municipal secretaries of the large municipalities and an improvement program has been drawn up.

For example, civil servants will receive information and counter staff involved in the issuance of identity and travel documents will be required to be certified and in future they must be in possession of a certificate of good conduct.