Thai Police Nab Mysterious Master Forger Known As 'The Doctor'
For years, Thai police have been trying to track down a master passport forger known only as "The Doctor."
All they had was a rough description: "a bald Iranian in his 40s," Thailand's The Nation reported.
The publication says '"The Doctor' had kept himself away from the public eye and contacted customers only via 4-5 agents," so his face and name remained a mystery.
The hunt came to an end on Monday, when Thai police raided a house east of Bangkok and arrested Hamid Reza Jafary. In subsequent operations, they also arrested five Pakistanis who allegedly acted as middlemen, AFP reports.
Authorities found nearly 200 passports in the house — some completely forged, while others were real travel documents that he allegedly altered, according to AFP.
Thai officials accuse Jafary of sending "thousands of passports to Middle Eastern customers trying to enter Europe," the wire service says, though it is not clear whether any of the forged documents were used in the current massive wave of migration to Europe.
The raid also uncovered "a laser engraving machine, rolls of thin leather for passport covers and metal stamps from various countries," according to AFP.
That equipment was on display at a Wednesday press conference held by police in Bangkok.
Also on display: the man authorities say is The Doctor himself.
Photos published by The Nation show police leading a handcuffed, bald man wearing a yellow jacket into the news conference. His face is obscured by dark sunglasses and he wears a medical mask over his mouth.
Police say that Jafary "confessed to forging passports" that cost about $1,450 to $2,325, The Telegraph reports.
It adds that "Thailand has a flourishing market in bogus passports that supplies human trafficking gangs and crime and terror networks."
AFP says immigration police commander Lt. Gen. Natthorn Phrosunthorn told reporters that the suspect "used six different passports — three from Brazil, and one from each of Peru, Portugal and New Zealand. He was wanted by security agencies in many countries, especially the EU and Japan."