Brazil breaks up ring that arranged false documents for Syrians

Four people face charges of fraud and belonging to a criminal organization, a report said.

Rio De Janeiro: Police in Rio de Janeiro have broken up a ring that arranged fake Brazilian citizenship for dozens of Syrian nationals, TV Globo`s Jornal Nacional newscast reported, raising security concerns following militant attacks in the United States and Europe and before the Rio Olympics in August.

Police have identified 72 Syrian nationals involved in the scheme, which arranged false Brazilian birth certificates for Syrian immigrants, the report said on Monday.

Those certificates were then used to obtain valid Brazilian documents, including passports and national ID cards identifying them as Brazilian-born citizens, Jornal Nacional said.

Four people face charges of fraud and belonging to a criminal organization, the report said.

Among the false birth certificates identified, 20 were used to obtain Brazilian passports, Jornal Nacional reported. Seventeen of the 72 people involved in the scheme asked for visas to the United States in Rio, five of them using their fraudulently obtained Brazilian passports, the report added, citing officials at the U.S. Consulate in Rio de Janeiro.

Several of those who traveled to the United States are former members of the Syrian armed forces, the report said.

Some of the passport holders also traveled to Europe. Police also found anti-Semitic articles and documents supporting Islamist militants on computers used by some of those who obtained the false documents.

The fraud occurred from 2012 to 2014 and involved falsifying written birth records recorded at a Rio de Janeiro cartório, or privately owned civil data registry, the Globo report said. The false certificates all recorded birth dates from the 1960s and 1970s.

The Syrian refugee issue has become politically charged, particularly in the United States, since the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris and the Dec. 2 mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, raised concerns some of the migrants might include militants linked to Islamic State.

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