Crime bosses who supplied fraudulent passports to murderers and drug traffickers convicted
Two crime bosses, including a man from London, have been convicted for supplying fraudulent passports to British murderers and drug traffickers for possibly decades.
Anthony Beard, 61, and Christopher Zietek, 67, were caught after a surveillance operation by the National Crime Agency (NCA) found they provided fraudulently-obtained passports to organised criminals over a five-year period.
NCA officers believe Beard, from Sydenham, London, had been procuring them for 20 years.
Criminals supplied with passports include Glasgow murderers Jordan Owen and Christopher Hughes, Liverpool drug trafficker Michael Moogan – who was jailed for 12 years on Friday – Manchester fugitive David Walley, and suspected Scottish drug traffickers Barrie Gillespie, Jamie Stevenson and James White.
The offenders paid between £5,000 and £15,000 for the documents, which were applied for using false information, the NCA said on Friday.
Beard and Zietek’s crime group exploited vulnerable people – often with drink or drug problems – who were around the same age as their clients and with similar facial features.
They were paid for providing their expired passports, and their details were used to apply for new ones but with photographs of the criminals. The criminal group also paid others to counter sign passport applications.
“He was involved in every aspect of organising and applying for the passports, including collecting application forms and planning the details to be provided by the applicant and the counter-signatory,” the NCA said on Friday.
His fingerprints were found on many of the forms, and contact numbers he included were for numerous burner phones he operated.
Handwriting experts established he completed most of the application forms, and a voice recognition specialist found that Beard called HM Passport Office to chase up applications pretending to be the people named on the forms.
Beard, who pleaded guilty to fraud offences, also faces further charges in relation to fraudulent passport used by other criminals, including Jamie Acourt, Christy Kinahan, and firearms trafficker Richard Burdett.
Zietek, who was formerly known as Christopher McCormack and was believed to be an enforcer for the Adams crime family in London, split his time between Sydenham, Ireland and Spain. He acted as the passport broker and exploited his criminal connections to obtain clients for the crime group.
The NCA captured audio recordings in Zietek’s house of incriminating conversations with Beard and others about the application processes and their customers. Officers also used undercover officers to deliver some of the passports.
Zietek and Beard were arrested in October 2021 and were charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, conspiracy to make a false instrument with intent (passports and ID documents), and money laundering.
Beard changed his plea to guilty in January this year, on the first day of a nine-week trial at Reading Crown Court. Zietek was found guilty on Friday.
Another member of the crime group, Alan Thompson, 72, from Sutton, Surrey, was also found guilty on Friday.
He worked for Zietek doing everything from chauffeuring him to criminal meetings to performing necessary tasks for the brokering of fraudulent passports, including meeting Beard when Zietek was abroad.
All three will be sentenced at Reading Crown Court at a later date.
NCA Deputy Director Craig Turner said: “We have identified a chronic, under the radar conspiracy that enabled drug and firearm traffickers, murderers and fugitives to evade justice, and we have worked across borders to dismantle it and the bring the masterminds to account.”
After the NCA established the false identities offenders were using, many fugitives have been caught with the help of UK police forces and international partners.
The NCA’s investigation codenamed Operation Strey started in 2017. It ran in partnership with the Dutch National Police and HM Passport Office – and has been one of the most significant undertaken by the agency in recent times.