UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 VILNIUS 000778
FRANKFURT FOR RCO - BARBARA ARMSTRONG
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KFRD CVIS LH
SUBJECT: PHOTO-SUBSTITUTED LITHUANIAN PASSPORTS: PROOF IS
IN THE MICROPRINTING
REF(S): VILNIUS 0701
Â¶1. Summary: Good-quality photo-substituted new-generation
Lithuanian passports, which have become increasingly
popular with citizens of other FSU countries seeking to
benefit from Lithuania's membership in the EU, are
difficult to detect. Fraudulent documents are generally
only distinguishable from legitimate documents by flaws
visible under magnification in the print style of the
digitized photo and the microprinted name of the passport
holder. End summary.
Â¶2. Since Lithuania's accession into the EU in 2004,
Lithuanian passports have become increasingly popular for
mala fide applicants from other FSU countries. Photo-
substitution of old-style Lithuanian passports is the
most commonly seen form of fraud, but border authorities
have begun encountering large numbers of good-quality
photo- substituted new-generation Lithuanian passports.
While Lithuanian authorities note that fraudulent
Lithuanian passports are rarely used in Lithuania - where
they might be more easily detected - we are concerned
that mala fide applicants may seek to use these
fraudulent Lithuanian passports to obtain visas to the
United States in other countries. To supplement our own
anti-fraud efforts, we requested a briefing on these
photo substitutions for consular section visa staff, both
local and American.
Â¶3. Captain Pavilas Taskevicius, Chief of the Lithuanian
Forensic Document Center, informed us that prior to
Lithuanian accession into the EU, roughly 75 percent of
those using fraudulent Lithuanian passports were
Lithuanian citizens hoping to hide past illegal
employment, deportation, or criminal history. Post-EU
accession, however, holders of fraudulent Lithuanian
passports are rarely Lithuanian. Of the 200 people
apprehended by UK authorities attempting to use a
fraudulent Lithuanian passport, not one was Lithuanian.
According to Taskevicius, mala fide Lithuanian passport
holders are generally Moldovan, Ukrainian or Russian.
The cost of these fraudulent documents reportedly varies
depending on where the document is purchased: the
original passport might be purchased in the Lithuanian
countryside for 100 litu (roughly $35). The photo-
substituted passport may then cost 1,000 pounds in the UK
or 1,000 Euro elsewhere in Europe.
Â¶4. Lithuania began issuing new-generation passports in
Â¶2003. In the new-generation passport, the passport
holder's biodata is recorded on a polycarbonate card
inserted into the passport. The advantages of the
polycarbonate biodata page are that it is waterproof,
durable, and requires special equipment to laser-engrave
the information, ideally making the document harder to
forge. The disadvantage of the polycarbonate biodata
page is that it is stiff and can crack or break.
Additionally, the digitized photo is of lower quality,
making one to one comparison more difficult.
Â¶5. The first photo-substituted new-generation passports
were detected in 2004. The photo-substitutions were
initially very simple: the laminate over the photo was
sliced out of the card, and a new photo inserted. A
laminate is then pasted over the page to conceal the
cuts. The photo-substitution is easily detected as the
new laminate covers the security features laser-engraved
onto the page. Additionally, the substitute photo will
be slightly raised and will partially conceal the UV
image of Lithuania. Looking up through the biodata page
into the light will also reveal a shadow image of the
Â¶6. Forgers have since improved on these early forgeries.
Forgers found that by slicing the edge of the biodata
card, they could separate the card's composite layers.
Peeling back the top layers containing the laser-engraved
security features, forgers are able to replace the
information on the biodata page. The layers are then
glued back together, leaving all security features
intact. The forgeries are skillful and of high quality.
Taskevicius conceded that the Center's own experts had
been unable to duplicate the forgeries as successfully.
Â¶7. Since the top layer's security features are left
intact, a simple fingertip check of the laminate is no
longer enough to detect the photo-substitution. The
photo-substitution can only be detected by examining the
passport under magnification. The laser-engraved photo
in a genuine passport is shaded, with no consistent
pattern in the printing. Small black particles that are
a by-product of the laser toner will also be visible in
the genuine passport. In the mala fide document, on the
other hand, the substituted photo, printed on a laser
printer, will show a clear dot-matrix pattern.
Additionally, new-generation Lithuanian passports contain
a security feature consisting of the passport holder's
name printed in microtext beneath the photo. Forgers
have not yet been successful in clearly duplicating the
microtext. Use of inkjet printers improves the quality
of the photo, but the pattern will still be visible. The
best clue, however, according to the forensic expert,
will be the quality of the microtext.
Â¶8. Comment: Lithuania began issuing electronic
diplomatic passports with biometric features on May 1.
Release of regular electronic passports is scheduled for
spring 2006. The electronic passport replaces the
polycarbonate biodata page with a laminated paper page.
The biometric chip (in this phase containing only the
information from the biodata page) should prevent photo
substitution in the future. However, until all earlier
version passports expire, photo-substitution of
Lithuanian passports will remain a concern. End comment.