Man arrested over passport thefts

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The Independent Online

A 48-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the theft of 3,000 blank passports and visas from a security van in Manchester, police said today.

The documents, which were being taken to RAF Northolt for delivery to embassies abroad, were snatched after the van driver stopped to go into a shop at 6.40 a.m. on Monday.

The man, from Oldham, was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit robbery and is currently in police custody.

During the theft, a second security guard, who had stayed in the van while the driver was in the shop, was attacked by two men, suffering minor injuries to his head and shoulder, but no weapon is believed to have been used in the heist.

The thieves hijacked the van, driving a short distance with the guard still in the passenger seat, before running off with about 24 parcels.

The Identity and Passport Service said the hi-tech embedded chip features on the e-passports meant they would be unusable.

But security experts said they could be used for fraud and employment and had a street value of about 2.5 million pounds.

The Foreign Office, while acknowledging the theft was a serious breach of security, said preventative action had been taken by itself and the Identity and Passport Service to stop any criminal using the documents.