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Are there any jurisdictions in western society where it's illegal to hold the passport of another country which was obtained fraudulently (either through lying or other means)?

To be clear, the passport itself was officially issued by the issuing country, so the passport is legitimate, but the details used to apply for the passport were wilfully incorrect i.e. a genuine passport was obtained fraudulently. Would holding this passport be illegal in any western country?

I'm not asking about using this passport to gain entry to another country, as that would be illegal under several circumstances.

This question arises from a situation described in a Travel SE question, where the original poster in one western country used the real-but-fraudulent passport of a second country to apply for a visa to a third country, and was refused.

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    Even if it is not against the laws of Country A to hold a fraudulently obtained passport of Country B, it is still entirely possible that the justice system of A will cooperate in helping the B authorities investigate and/or apprehend the perpetrator. – Nate Eldredge Aug 19 at 1:11
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    Just possesses it? Without using or intending to use it as an identification document for any purpose? – Ryan M Aug 19 at 2:41
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    @RyanM obtaining and possessing it - using it definitely has negative legal connotations. This is related to a question over on the Travel SE. – Moo Aug 19 at 2:43
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    @JBH in the case in question, a Canadian citizen (holding a Canadian passport) applied for and received a Chinese passport using false details while in Canada. So in the exact case in question yes they can do the "former" without having done the "latter" in your example. – Moo Aug 19 at 23:03
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    @Criggie holding it. Using a fraudulent document is almost always illegal in most jurisdictions, theres no question to be asked there. In the linked Travel SE question, the passport was used, but I'm not asking about that (and someone else edited that into my question - I left it out because it risks raises questions like your one). – Moo Aug 21 at 4:26
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UK, Identity Documents Act 2010, false identity documents etc:

  1. Possession of false identity documents etc with improper intention

(1) It is an offence for a person (“P”) with an improper intention to have in P's possession or under P's control—

(a) an identity document that is false and that P knows or believes to be false,

(b) an identity document that was improperly obtained and that P knows or believes to have been improperly obtained, or

(c) an identity document that relates to someone else.

  1. Each of the following is an improper intention—

(a) the intention of using the document for establishing personal information about P;

(b) the intention of allowing or inducing another to use it for establishing, ascertaining or verifying personal information about P or anyone else.

...

  1. Possession of false identity documents etc without reasonable excuse

(1) It is an offence for a person (“P”), without reasonable excuse, to have in P's possession or under P's control—

(a) an identity document that is false,

(b) an identity document that was improperly obtained, ...

Such an identity document could be an "an immigration document", "a passport issued by or on behalf of the authorities of a country or territory outside the United Kingdom or by or on behalf of an international organisation" or "a document that can be used (in some or all circumstances) instead of a passport" (e.g. a European country's identity card).

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  • Does the "improper intention" have to be within the UK, or at times the person is within the UK? – Ian Ringrose Aug 20 at 9:28
11

It is illegal in Germany. The German Criminal Code (Strafgesetzbuch, StGB) says:

Section 271 Causing false records

(1) Whoever causes declarations, negotiations or facts which are of relevance for rights or legal relationships to be recorded or stored in public documents, books, data files or registers as having been made or having occurred or having been stored although they were not actually made or did not occur, or were made or occurred in another manner, or by a person lacking a professed capacity or by a different person incurs a penalty of imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or a fine.

[...]

(4) The attempt is punishable.

Section 276 Procurement of false official identity documents

(1) Whoever

  1. undertakes to import or export or

  2. with the intention of using it to facilitate deception in legal commerce, procures for themselves or another, stores or gives to another

a counterfeit or falsified official identity document or an official identity document which contains a false notarial recording of the type indicated in sections 271 and 348 incurs a penalty of imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or a fine.

A "public document" in the sense of § 271 I StGB is also a foreign document if it has some reference to Germany (Freund, in: Münchener Kommentar zum StGB, 3. Auflage 2019, § 271 Rn. 16; this are esp. passports, KG Berlin, Urteil vom 29. November 1979 – (4) Ss 348/79 (131/79), JR 1980, 516f.). A "official identity document" in § 276 I is also a foreign document, e.g. a passport (Erb, in: Münchener Kommentar zum StGB, 3. Auflage 2019, § 276 Rn. 2; BGH, Beschluss vom 29.7.2000, 1 StR 238/00, NJW 2000, 3148).

Though a foreigner causing false records in foreign countries does not stand in the scope of the German crimnal law, such a constallation is not mentioned in §§ 3-7 StGB (except special circumstances in § 7 II). So to fraudulently obtain a foreign passport alone is not a crime in Germany.

But to import or export such a passport or to store the passport with the intent to use it for forgery is a crime under § 276 StGB. As foreign identity documents are used domestically on a regular basis when dealing with foreigners (as a replacement for an ID, for example when signing contracts or identifying yourself on receiving some kinds of parcels), it is reasonable to punish such acts domestically.

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    Does that really cover the scenario in the question? The “obtaining“ happened abroad, is that still punishable in Germany? In most cases, the distinction would be academic but the assumption is that the person has a genuine passport they would use in Germany and no intent to use the fraudulent one for any kind of fraud in Germany. Does the fraudulently obtained foreign passport still have “some reference to Germany”? Wouldn't the most likely charge be importing it? – Relaxed Aug 20 at 10:58
  • @Relaxed I changed my answer, Thanks for the idea. Does this answer all your questions? – K-HB Aug 20 at 20:59
6

As the refusal letter of the context question states, the papers were decided to be a false representation because they are (among other reasons) probably

  • used by an imposter [as in: he is not the person the papers claim to be]
  • have been obtained fraudulently [as in: the information given to the issuing country were not correct]

The UK authorities reasoned, basing on the data they have, that the OP's statements to the visa issuing office were wrong. They determined (most likely because of the different birthdate and name, but matching other data they have) that as a result the papers must either belong to somebody else (worded as imposter in the denial and in the statute as relate to someone else) or were obtained fraudulently (wording in the denial, in the statute this is obtained improperly).

Possession of such ID papers (including passports) without reasonable excuse is a crime under the Identity Documents Act 2010, s.6 b & c:

It is an offence for a person (“P”), without reasonable excuse, to have in P's possession or under P's control—

(b)an identity document that was improperly obtained,

(c)an identity document that relates to someone else,

This does not only mean identity documents issued by the UK, but also any other countries or their replacements as, s7 describes:

(1)For the purposes of sections 4 to 6 “identity document” means any document that is or purports to be—

(c)a passport issued by or on behalf of the authorities of a country or territory outside the United Kingdom or by or on behalf of an international organisation,

(d)a document that can be used (in some or all circumstances) instead of a passport,

The possession of secondary papers under a fake name for a state that does not offer dual citizenship but having not repealed the citizenship of another country that was held before immediately triggered the Visa Office's response that the second papers must be improperly obtained or belonging to somebody else, which is a crime punishable with up to 2 years in the UK, as Section 7 C explicitly says "passport issued by a country outside of the UK". There might be a reasonable excuse that would prevent such a punishment, but the IDA 2010 does not contain what might be such.

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It could be an offence contrary to Section 6 of the Fraud Act 2006 in the UK:

(1) A person is guilty of an offence if he has in his possession or under his control any article for use in the course of or in connection with any fraud.

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  • There’s nothing per se in this question (leaving aside the circumstances of the linked context question to which it links) that suggests the document is “for use in the course of or in connection with any fraud”. – eggyal Aug 21 at 3:05
  • Yes, that's why I said "could" - it will depend on the facts. Arguably, the fraud was committed when obtaining the document in the first place, so the "in connection with" and "use" would come into play (contemplated future use is possible). I'd argue the Identity Documents Act 2010 is more applicable though. – Matthew Aug 21 at 7:45

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