Britain, Ireland probe fake passport link to Russian 'spies'

29th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

Britain and Ireland are investigating reports that fake British and Irish passports were used by members of an alleged Russian spy ring arrested in the United States, officials said Tuesday.

London and Dublin said they were checking after US officials announced the arrest of 10 "deep-cover" suspects accused of infiltrating policymaking and reporting back to Moscow.

"We are aware that the indictments state that one of the accused has travelled on a UK passport. We will be investigating this fully with the US," a statement from the Foreign Office in London said.

It added: "We remain confident that the British passport is one of the most secure documents of its kind -- fully meeting rigorous international standards."

In Dublin, a foreign ministry spokesman said they were also trying to get clarification about the possible use of an Irish passport.

"There is a reference to a false Irish passport in an FBI affidavit filed in connection with the Russian spy ring," the spokesman told AFP. "We are trying to get official clarification of this report."

"The firm position of the government in regard to the fraudulent use of Irish passports is a matter of public record," he added.

Russia swiftly demanded an explanation of the US charges, which read like the synopsis of a Cold War thriller with encrypted messages, false identities, and tales of buried money and hidden video cameras.

Earlier this month, the Irish government expelled an official at the Israeli embassy in Dublin in protest over the use of forged Irish passports by suspects in the killing of a Hamas official in Dubai, blamed on Israeli security agents.

Britain announced the expulsion of an Israeli diplomat in March over the Hamas affair.

© 2010 AFP

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