New Zealand passports have been found in the hands of a dangerous master forger who allegedly supplied fake documents to terrorists, drug smugglers and human traffickers around the world.
Seyed Ramin Miraziz Paknejad was caught by counter-terrorism police in Malaysia last month and is suspected of creating false passports for an alleged plot to kill Israeli diplomats with bomb blasts in Bangkok last year.
More than 3,000 passports and drivers' licences were found in the 45-year-old's apartment in Thailand last year, as well as sophisticated computer and counterfeiting equipment.
The Herald can reveal that copies of 19 New Zealand passports - including those with electronic chips - were found among the forged travel documents.
New Zealand passports are highly sought after by criminal networks, as the holders generally receive a lower level of scrutiny at international borders.
Fourteen passports had been reported lost or stolen in Thailand, with seven of those taken from the holiday hotspot of Koh Phangan.
Two were "fraudulently obtained genuine" documents - the names and details are of legitimate New Zealand citizens - but the photographs are of other people. Their identities are still unknown.
A spokesman for the Department of Internal Affairs said the New Zealand passport is considered to be one of the most secure in the world with "multiple state of the art security features" and a strong international reputation, with 60 visa-free arrangements with other countries.
"For these reasons it will be a target for fraudsters and other criminals. We encourage New Zealand passport holders to look after their passports and to report the loss or theft of it as soon as possible."
The 45-year-old Paknejad, also known as Parknejed Seyed Ramin, was arrested in Thailand after a failed bomb plot in February 2012 but fled the country after being granted bail.
Five Iranian nationals are suspected in what Thai police have said was a botched plot to kill Israeli diplomats there.
The case was uncovered in February 2012 when explosives apparently detonated accidentally in Bangkok.
At the time of his arrest, police accused him of supplying terrorists and criminals around the world with fake immigration documents for five years.
The passports created by the Iranian national were sold to customers in the Middle East, foreign criminal groups in Thailand and overseas criminal syndicates.
Thai authorities have linked the forgery ring to terrorists and drug traffickers and also illegal immigration rings to smuggle people into countries such as New Zealand and Australia.
During the raid, police discovered evidence of a second passport-forging base where more computers, records and a gun were recovered.
Colonel Songsak Raksaksakul, commander of Bureau of Foreign Affairs and Transnational Crime, said Ramin was part of an Iranian forgery ring and the bogus documents were sold to more than 3,000 buyers in 14 countries at an average of $1,000 each.
Mr Songsak said countries such as Canada, Britain and Australia had arrested more than 1,000 foreigners carrying fake passports produced in Thailand.