French residency card fraud under investigation

The criminal scheme allegedly relied on corrupt officials and digital documents to issue fake cartes de séjour for fees of up to €18,000

A view of a man with a bag looking down to the floor with an arrow pointing towards a French flag to suggest access to France
The criminal network gave illegal immigrants the (fake) right to remain in France
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A major residency card fraud is under investigation in France, with 13 people - including two prefecture employees - suspected of helping to issue fake cartes de séjour.

The group - men and women, aged 21 to 55 - is suspected of profiting from a scheme in which they made fraudulent cartes de séjour for illegal immigrants in Paris and surrounding neighbourhoods, beginning in January 2021.

Read more: Must we carry carte de séjour at all times in France?

Agents from the illegal immigration team, the Sous-direction de la lutte contre l’immigration irrégulière (SDLII), began investigating in May 2022 after a tip-off, reports Le Parisien.

Some of the team were indicted in June this year in Paris. However, the head of the crime network, and one of his associates, are currently thought to be on the run abroad and have not been found. The head is thought to be called Sifou, and the group is believed to have bases in Turkey, as well as in Les Pavillons-sous-Bois and Rosny-sous-Bois in Île-de-France.

A man called Fouad, also known as the 'Director', aged 45, is thought to be the main forger, while another man, Kamal, 31, is known to police as a repeat offender and forgery ‘specialist’.

A third suspect, Mounir, (nicknamed Louis), 44, otherwise works as a plumber. He is believed to ‘supervise’ the customers and counterfeiters, and the safe printing and delivery of their documents. These include cards and fake passports, some of which were printed in Turkey.

Two of the group have also been named as Hadj, aged 55, and Fayçal, aged 26. Both were indicted and released pending trial on October 17, 2023.

Hadj - the owner of two shisha bars in the north and west of Paris - is suspected of helping the network to find clients among his shisha bar customers. He is also suspected, along with his bouncer, of having set up his own similar criminal organisation.

Fees up to €18,000 and claims of corrupt officials

The network is accused of helping illegal immigrants from North Africa and Egypt to obtain fake European resident permits, for fees ranging from €10,000 to €18,000. The cartes de séjour gave the holders the fraudulent right to remain in France, with an automatic extension every five years.

The immigrants were given appointments with the allegedly corrupt prefecture workers, who would process fake ID documents and enable the fraudulent residency cards to be issued.

The digitisation of the process is said to have helped the fraudsters, as it is not possible for workers to detect clues of forgery, such as the thickness of paper, when the documents are digital-only.

The team is also suspected of being helped by Mounir’s girlfriend, thought to have helped to bring back fake passports from Turkey; as well as an employee of the Moroccan consulate in Villemomble, Île-de-France.

Police searched 14 locations in Paris, Seine-Saint-Denis and Val-d'Oise on June 5, 2023. This led to the arrest of eight suspects.

Two offices were dismantled, and phones, computers, and printers were seized, as were false passports and other counterfeit documents. Investigators also confiscated funds of €110,000 and a Hyundai 4x4.

Twenty-four individuals who are said to have received counterfeit documents have also been questioned.

So far, the suspects questioned have denied any involvement or played down their role in the network.

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